Dealing with Anxiety: Gamer style.



Fri 23rd Nov 2012 - 6:01pm

Whether playing competitive games induces anxiety, or if it was a pre-existing condition (anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the US alone), it’s important to be aware of the issue and how you can fix it.

Knowing Your Limits

I’m a fairly anxious person myself, I’ve been dealing with anxiety for my whole life; I get shaky and sweaty after a match in any half-way competitive game, and I’m positive there are some of you out there with the same issue. I already have anxiety? Check. Is the game I’m playing generally a competitive game involving some sort of scoring system? Pretty much. Tack on the fact that I’m either going to win or lose this game, and suddenly there’s several factors that are going to make me anxious, in an activity that should be about relaxation!

If you lose a few games, and find yourself getting a bit jittery, just stop; take a break, go outside, do something to get your mind off of the game. By the same token, this could go for those individuals that get a bit heated after a match. If you find yourself flaming and raging at others, (and thus creating anxiety for everyone), it might be time for you to take a break, as well.

The Woes of Ranked Play

Name any popular online game, and I guarantee there’s some form of a ranking system. I talk to people all the time about how they are afraid to play ranked games just because of some number that really doesn’t mean all that much. If you’re not going to be making a living off of the game you’re playing, don’t worry about that number; just play. I try to look at any ladder system with a certain mentality.

Not that I’m good or bad based on that number, but because of that number I’m not going to be against people too easy or too hard. I’m going to be matched in my optimal comfort zone, and I’m going to play to get better and improve my skills, not try to climb the ladder. If you truly care about your rank, you’ll find yourself going up if you adopt my mentality.

The Alternative

Despite the common notion that casual gamers are inferior in skill or gaming prowess (which I believe to be false anyhow), sometimes being a casual gamer is the best case situation for someone with anxiety. Maybe ranked play isn’t for you. Personally, I like the added challenge and the inner strive towards getting better; and that’s a unique experience exclusive to ranked play, worth the cost of getting a little anxious. But for others with more severe cases, it might be better to just ignore the ranked aspect of the games you play.

If you do choose to play ranked, and you find yourself getting anxious, there are other alternatives to completely leaving videogames that can help you. There are plenty of relaxing games I like to play to just wind down after a long day, or after a series of intense ranked matches.

For creative individuals, I’d recommend games like Minecraft, or Terraria. Both are fairly cheap games, and are very easy to just pick up and play. Some of the most fun I’ve ever had was playing Minecraft with friends; if you can think it up, there are endless gaming possibilities with these games.

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Final Thoughts

Having anxiety and gaming don’t tend to coincide very well, but you can make it work out. I’ve dealt with anxiety my whole life, and while I don’t believe escapism or distractions to be the best answer to anxiety, it certainly doesn’t hurt. I find that after ten to fifteen minutes in any virtual setting in-game, I become so intensely involved in the game that I forget about any of the symptoms I was previously experiencing. And in the day and age of modern technology, most people aren’t ever more than five feet from something to distract them from their anxiety symptoms.

If you’re not at home or at a computer, you probably have some game you like to play on your phone or mobile gaming device, and these are certainly great solutions. Games are a great distraction from anxiety, but certain aspects of these games can, and will fuel anxiety if you let them.


I really enjoyed writing this article, and as always would love to hear your thoughts and feedback!