Seasonal Affective Disorder(SAD) is a complex illness that’s often hidden and harmful.
More than 16 million people suffer from SAD. It can strike without warning. While there are no causal studies linking video games to SAD, there are incredibly strong correlations between gaming and SAD-related depression.
Video games can worsen any kind of depression.
But there are simple changes you can make to keep SAD at bay.
This article will look at Seasonal Affective Disorder and why it strikes gamers worse than regular folk. There are scientifically proven methods to manage SAD, and this article will expose them.
Table of Contents
What is Seasonal Affective Disorder?
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that affects all age groups and isn’t easy to diagnose.
This is a form of depression that can strike even the healthiest of people and render them stressed for nearly 40% of the entire year.
People that live far away from the equator are the worst hit.
This problem can be paralyzing, but fortunately it is predictable well in advance. Some people are completely asymptomatic and don’t show any visible signs of SAD on the outside. But others carry the most common signs and symptoms of SAD which result from:
- Too much melatonin
- Too little vitamin D
- Imbalanced serotonin/dopamine levels
- Broken circadian rhythms
Serotonin is a key hormone involved in the regulation of happiness and well-being. During times of little sunlight, you might get exposed to very little sunlight, and prevent your body from being able to produce healthy levels of serotonin.
This can give rise to a whole host of problems if left unattended.
Do I Have SAD?
The specific causes of SAD are unknown, but there are a few common symptoms that people usually have:
- Feeling worthless
- Feeling lethargic
- Feeling restless
- Lack of interest in the things that normally bring you joy
- Feeling depressed most of the day, every day.
- Unnatural weight gain
- Unnatural weight loss
The biggest danger with SAD is that it’s likely to be misdiagnosed as something severe such as bipolar disorder instead.
Asymptomatic patients go to the doctor.
The doctor witnesses no symptoms of SAD and instead misinterprets it as a complex psychiatric illness.
And so, the patient walks out with prescriptions for a condition they never, ever had.
The danger of a misdiagnosis is impossible to understate.
The Link Between Gaming And Depression
Video games are incredibly popular entertainment past-times that double as coping mechanisms for millions of people.
And just like with any other coping mechanism, establishing a definite connection with a mental disorder and coping mechanism is always a tricky act.
When done moderately and responsibly, coping mechanisms can be healthy ways to cope with the world.
When done excessively and irresponsibly, coping mechanisms can be maladaptive ways to adjust with the world.
With the death of the couch multiplayer genre, gamers don’t even get the physical satisfaction of having friends nearby. Gaming is now a physically isolated activity that can easily aggravate other forms of depression and push you away from building real relationships and connections.
Research shows that playing video games definitively aggravates depressive conditions such as SAD. The findings vary, but physical isolation plays a strong role in the worsening of depressive symptoms.
Multiplayer games have teams and communities to socialize in, and finding like-minded players can definitely result in priceless memories and friendships.
But toxic communities are so common, it can be a real struggle to find a positive, team-work oriented group of people you can get along with.
Then there are single player video games that are engineered as Skinner boxes. These games provide strong bursts of dopamine in the beginning as the player is introduced into the game world. Then the hits of dopamine take longer and longer to arrive.
The game rations dopamine hits, only to dump a truck-load when a player uses the option to use real-life money to progress in a game instead.
Games with loot box/gambling mechanics are built on exploiting natural curiosity and can completely exhaust your dopamine pathways by providing bigger and bigger hits.
Excessive gaming in any sort of game can lead to dopamine exhaustion and self-isolation. This can result in people neglecting other areas of their life and causing their academic or professional lives to suffer, which can impact quality of life in the long-run.
This can make people feel “stuck” in life and unable to break out of a rut.
There is a very real danger of maladaptive coping. Video games exploit a natural psychological pattern in the mind known as the triumph circuit.
This exists to make you feel good about yourself when you accomplish a goal. Video games can make you prefer to spend more time gaming, where satisfaction is easy to come by, instead of the real world, where satisfaction is much more difficult to achieve.
Can Playing Video Games Help Depression?
Video games can absolutely alleviate depression when engaged in responsibly.
fMRI scans show that gaming sessions can suppress negative emotions. This allows people to handle their emotions better in the long run and allow them respite long enough until they can take action to solve their problems in the long-term.
Gaming is also an effective release valve for stress. A gaming session after a hard day of work can allow you to unwind and relax with your friends.
The odds of finding like-minded individuals is greater in video games than in real life. This is simply because gaming lets you break through geographical limitations and allows you to select friends from all over the world rather than your immediate geographical region.
The right friends can carry you through difficult moments in your life. The right friends can offer an authentic, wholesome experience as you engage in teamwork and task completion in online co-operative games.
Feeling accepted and useful is a strong incentive for people to engage in gaming. This is a strong remedy for some kinds of depression.
Then there are situations such as pandemics where the value of video games really begins to shine. Physical interactions are limited in real life, but you can stay connected with your friends and loved ones in video games during quarantine.
You can develop skills that you can carry over into the real world and even into professional work environments. Video games certainly have their place in alleviating depression. However, finding the right balance can be tricky.
How can you keep SAD at bay while you game? Is there any way to be certain you won’t worsen your depressive symptoms while you play? The point is to entertain yourself and have fun, after all. Not aggravate your depression.
How Can I Play Video Games Without Worrying About SAD?
There are simple adjustments you can make to enjoy gaming while keeping SAD at bay.
Light therapy is a proven means of treating SAD-related depression along with any sleep disorders you might have.
This treatment involves sitting near a light box that emits strong light for about 30 minutes a day. The stronger the intensity of light, the less time you need to spend by it.
The best light therapy devices mimic natural sunlight that makes your body naturally produce serotonin with ease. This depends on the intensity of the light boxes.
SAD Lamps are popular as they come in intensities ranging from 2,500 LUX to 10,000 LUX, allowing you to choose a lamp that best suits your body.
Different individuals have different needs and sensitivities, and you’d be surprised at how much LUX you’d need to treat sleep disorders.
These boxes have proven successful across medical centers all across the USA.
Then there’s Red Light Therapy Devices. These treat SAD by emitting wavelengths that go beyond the surface of the skin and are absorbed by the body. These wavelengths can even carry anti-depressant properties as long as they’re the right wavelength.
Finally, there are Light Therapy Glasses that just about anyone can wear to repair broken circadian rhythms. These work by emitting comfortable, soothing wavelengths.
The cutting-edge ones can even synchronize with your cellphone and measure your current circadian rhythms, melatonin levels, and body temperature to provide an experience personally tailored just for you.
They don’t look half-bad, either.
Summing It Up
SAD can be a devastating illness, and video games can aggravate this condition if left unchecked.
By understanding SAD and why it happens, we can begin to take measures to prevent and treat it.
Simple devices such as light boxes, light therapy glasses, and red light therapy devices can directly address the lack of sunlight problem that SAD is always a result of.
These devices are simple to use, affordable, and allow you to keep on gaming indoors without the disadvantages of staying indoors.
People that suffer from SAD can continue to play without putting down their controllers as long as they use any of the treatments found above.
There is no need to throw away the things you enjoy as long as you know what you’re doing. Hopefully, SAD will one day become a thing of the past if enough people seek treatment.