I’ve had a couple of traumatic events happen to me in the last couple of years, both very different – the break up of a relationship and being caught up in the bombing in Manchester. But in the wake of both of these event I found myself seeking solace in something quite unusual for me, playing computer games.
In my normal day to day life I don’t usually play games on my phone or computer, I even advocate switching off from digital devices. But something drew me to play during these emotionally unstable times, so I wanted to investigate as to whether this was just something I did or if there’s any science behind why I might do this when I’m sad and distressed.
I guess it’s seems quite obvious, I was drawn to playing games on my phone as a way of distracting myself from reality. I just wanted to focus on anything but the unpleasant thoughts racing through my mind. Simple but challenging games on my phone allowed me to will away hours in the first couple of days of those horrible events without really having to think about what had happened to me.
I’ve since learnt that playing computer games can actually produce an analgesic (pain relieving) response in the brain. The games I opted for were things like The Sims and Pokemon, really not ones likely to get my heart racing, games like this can help reduce the adrenaline response which is heighten following a traumatic or stressful event.
So it would seem from my (very limited research) that there could be some real benefit to getting lost in a virtual world when you’re feeling anxious or stressed following a traumatic event, speaking from personal experience it certainly helped me.