There’s been no shortage of stories about the instant phenomenon that is Pokémon Go. However, one of the most interesting trends in the wake of the game’s release has been its curative effect on those suffering from agoraphobia (an extreme fear of crowded spaces or enclosed public places) and social anxiety.
Just take a look at some of tweets a general search for “Pokémon Go agoraphobia” turned up:
pokemon go has done more for my agoraphobia than anything else in life ever will honestly
— laura lamb (@lklamb_) July 8, 2016
3 years of agoraphobia and it turns out all i needed to get me to leave the house was pokemon — ASHLYN! (@WHlSKERS) July 8, 2016
Pokemon Go has been really great for my agoraphobia. My desire to git gud outweighs my desire to hide in my front room.
— Rexia (@TechyFolks) July 11, 2016
A recent blog post by user “Tina L-Z” on The Mighty, a community site for those suffering from disability, disease, and mental illness, writes of her experience with Pokémon Go:
When I downloaded the game to my phone, I had never expected anything more than a silly distraction while I sat at home. But in the time I have been playing, I have been walking so much more. Getting out into nature and increasing my movement has had a great effect on my mind and my sleeping. I have met people whose paths I would have never crossed. I have visited places I was always too afraid to check out before. I have started to feel less afraid. Even as I type this, I am thinking about how I cannot wait to go to my therapist and tell her all I was able to accomplish in a week. I am so grateful something that seemed so trivial has turned into another tool to help me with my fight against some of my mental issues.
Another post by Catie Leary, on the Mother Nature Network, quotes Emily Crowthorn, a Pokémon trainer who says the game has been nothing short of a life-changer. The 24-year-old artist based in Danville, Pennsylvania, had been grappling with debilitating panic attacks that forced her to stay confined to her home for extended periods of time, and it wasn’t until she started playing Pokémon Go that she was finally able to step outside and not feel a sense of panic wash over her.
Psychiatrist John M. Grohol writes in Psychcentral, “I think this is a wonderful demonstration of the unintentional but beneficial consequences of gaming and producing a game that encourages healthy exercise. Research has long shown the benefits of simple exercise on improving mood. The developers behind Pokémon Go didn’t mean to create a mental health gaming app. But they’ve done so, and the effects seem to be largely positive. For a person suffering from depression or another mood disorder, the idea of exercise can be nearly impossible to contemplate, much less do. For someone suffering from social anxiety, the idea of going outside and possibly bumping into others who may want to talk to you is daunting.”
Since Pokémon Go has only been out for a few days, its lasting impact on those suffering from agoraphobia or social anxiety is unknown. Will those who show improvement revert to their previous conditions after the excitement of the game wears off? It’s unknown. However, with recent research into the gamification of mental health treatment showing some positive results, there’s reason to be optimistic.
Has Pokémon Go affected your social life in any way? Let us know in the comments!
Image Source: Eduardo Woo/Flickr