Can Online Games Play a Positive Role in Bipolar Disorder?

Author: Stanley Clark

Gaming gives people the opportunity to try something new. Engaging in such an activity lets individuals form alliances, complete quests, and make new friends. Playing video games is fun and exciting. But there’s a different kind of rush and excitement when there’s money involved. That’s why some people even engage in online sports betting, hoping to cash out from this recreational hobby. Much has been written about commercial games, and quite a lot of it is negative. In 2017, about 40% of the American population played commercial video games.

Substantial research about this mainstream habit has examined problems related to gaming, ranging from sedentary screen time to exposure to violence. However, emerging research suggests that video games may provide affordable and stigma-free treatment for mental conditions, such as bipolar disorder.

This article provides an overview of the recent research on the benefits of commercial video games for mental health. It also includes a brief discussion of what bipolar disorder is, its treatment plans, and the benefits of online games, especially on people with such a condition.

Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder (manic depression) is a mental condition that causes unusual mood changes. It also affects activity levels and concentration.

People diagnosed with bipolar disorder experience periods of unusually intense emotions and develop uncharacteristic behaviors. These distinct periods are called “mood episodes.”

Treatment Plans  

A general treatment plan for bipolar disorder is a combination of medication and psychotherapy.

Bespoke video games designed for therapy are also commonly used to manage the illness. However, a recent study shows that commercial video games provide mental health benefits and may serve as therapy.

Research suggests that commercial video games may help deliver mental health support where it’s most needed. Since everyone can access video games online, individuals diagnosed with mental health conditions may benefit from adjunctive therapeutic intervention through gaming.

Traditional care typically occurs less frequently, so online games could be a great addition to treatment. However, these games still can’t replace clinicians, and they’re also not enough to be an alternative to traditional therapy.

Benefits of Online Games

Mental Heath Stimulation

Online games make people think. Depending on the game’s complexity, an individual is required to strategize and analyze whenever they play.

For example, strategic games may help strengthen one’s problem-solving skills. These games encourage critical thinking and decision-making that could be beneficial to a person’s mental health.

Feeling a Sense of Accomplishment

People set a particular goal and objective in every game they play. Once they achieve their goal, they may feel a sense of satisfaction which then improves their mood.

Emotional Resilience

It can be frustrating to fail a game. However, online games may also help individuals cope with failure and encourage them to keep trying.

Research shows that puzzle games may reduce stress and depression and even prevent flashbacks after a traumatic experience.

Social Interaction

Connection is an essential aspect of mental health, and playing video games may provide individuals with a sense of belongingness. They may feel like they are connected to a community where members value their participation.

Multiple player and online games are perfect for virtual interaction. Researchers found that games such as “Animal Crossing: New Horizons” and “Minecraft” could reduce loneliness and foster social connectedness.

Meanwhile, augmented reality games like “Pokemon GO” could help promote physical activity among individuals who are reluctant to engage in social interaction.


There’s a heightened demand for cost-effective and accessible methods to facilitate coping with mental health illnesses, such as bipolar disorder.

Gaming may help mitigate certain mental health conditions. Still, too much of everything is not good. So it’s crucial to set limits when it comes to playing online games regardless of the purpose.


  1. Bipolar Disorder

  1. Gaming Your Mental Health: A Narrative Review on Mitigating Symptoms of Depression and Anxiety Using Commercial Video Games

  1. Commercial Video Games As Therapy: A New Research Agenda to Unlock the Potential of a Global Pastime



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