Pokemon GO, anxiety and panic attacks

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Anxiety. It’s a demon that eats you from the inside, despite everything you do against it. The reasons for it’s existence are not easy to find, they are often subconscious and, even more often, a result of accumulated stress in your life.

Panic attacks are the physical manifestation of anxiety. They are scary: cold sweat, tremors, racing heart, lack of breath, high pitched sounds in your ears. They happen often, sometimes as frequent as three times per day. They also last for a long time – six months in my case.

In April of 2016, I’ve managed the strength to go into therapy and some time mid May 2016 I was relatively functional again: mundane tasks were no longer a dread, work wasn’t as difficult as it used to be and I stopped having violent panic attacks.

However, the fear was still there.

“The fear” is something that anyone who had panic attacks will tell you about. It’s not a fear of dying, it’s a fear of being stuck, of repeating the anxiety cycle: panic, calm down, fear of repeating. It’s a fear of going back to panic attacks, of loosing control. The fear drove many anxiety sufferers to re-do therapy over and over, just to repeat the whole process again.

They say that most people overcome “the fear” by tricking their mind into thinking about something else. It’s bait and switch, textbook example. Love football? You will play football for hours without end: the distraction becomes your shelter, your safe place where no panic can occur and where the fear is not an option. You are busy, too busy to be afraid.

For me, Pokemon GO was the shelter.

I’m a casual player – I’ve always been a “filthy casual”. Even today, the admin of GO Hub is a Level 32 (and a half!) Mystic player that started on June 7th and still has only a Zombie Dragonite peeking his ugly head above 3000 CP.

But that doesn’t really matter. I wasn’t playing the game to be good.

That summer, Pokemon GO saved me from “the fear”: from walks in the city, over beers in the evening, meeting new people, strange people, funny people, kept my mind occupied enough for the fear to subside.

The Hub took over the rest of my vacation time: swim in the morning, write around noon, go out and play PoGO in the afternoon / evening. Eventually, I was social again. I was strong again, mentally renewed – my mind was occupied for long enough and it finally caught a break. You can’t really be afraid while mass evolving Pidgeys or when your phone rings and there’s someone on the other side shouting about a Snorlax that just popped up near him.

The fear was gone and with it came miraculous events like these:

Photo credits: Slobodna Dalmacija

If you know someone who’s suffering from anxiety, reach out to them. Introduce them to Pokemon GO and your local play group. It helps. It really helps.

You can also read about the science behind Pokémon GO’s influence on anxiety here:

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Zeroghan started the Hub in July 2016 and hasn't had much sleep since. A lover of all things Pokémon, web development, and writing.

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