You can’t go anywhere without seeing the tell-tale signs of Pokémon Go players. You just have to look for the usual signs. Wondering people with their heads down staring at their screens. Large groups of strangers conversing on random landmarks. People with their arms outstretched throwing imaginary balls at imaginary creatures.
If you didn’t know better, you might think that the zombie apocalypse has finally arrived. But I can’t rag on Pokémon too much. One, it has become a bonding game for me and my children and two, my therapy clients are improving. And I mean really improving.
I started to notice huge changes in teens that, prior to Pokémon Go, had struggled to be motivated. This improvement was most significant in anxious teens. Pokémon Go has become my new favorite treatment for anxiety.
TROUBLE TALKING TO OTHER PEOPLE?
Grab your phone and go Pokémon hunting. Before long random people will start a conversation with you. I have heard from so many teens that they are leaving their rooms for the first time and actually talking to people. These are kids who wouldn’t talk to their peers the entire school year. Kids who had no voice except behind a screen and keyboard.
DON’T FEEL LIKE YOU BELONG?
There is nothing more bonding than seeing another person staring at their phone trying to catch an imaginary Pokémon. This game bonds people. Strangers who would never start a conversation are seeking out social interaction. PokéStops and Gyms are guaranteed to attract some like-minded people.
AFRAID TO LEAVE YOUR HOUSE?
For many teens I see, nothing has lured them (no pun intended) outside of their house more than Pokémon Go. I have worked with many teens whose anxiety has literally kept them imprisoned in their own homes. Exposure therapy and challenges have done nothing in comparison to Pokémon Go. Teens who weren’t motivated a month ago are leaving their house, block and neighborhood.
OCD RITUALS OVERWHELM YOU?
OCD can be a constant internal struggle, keeping your brain full of chatter. Pokémon Go has helped many kids refocus their thoughts and energy into this fun game. It has offered a much needed reprieve from the constant nag to complete rituals.
WORRIED ABOUT BEING IN CROWDS?
I work with many teens who get overwhelmed in crowds. I am not even talking about large crowds. A restaurant. A store with more than a few people. Anywhere a perceive audience can be. Pokémon Go has helped these teens refocus their attention and helped minimize the feelings of self-consciousness.
AFRAID YOU ARE ALWAYS GOING TO THROW UP?
There are teens that are constantly worried they are going to throw up. What if they throw up at a restaurant? What if they throw up at their friend’s house? Pokémon Go has helped encourage these kids to leave the comfort and security of their homes – as well as providing constant distraction from their stomachs.
NEED A DISTRACTION DURING A PANIC ATTACK?
Panic attacks can be excruciating. What makes them worse is the panic over the panic. I often try and help people find activities and coping mechanisms to take their mind away from their body’s false alarm. Enter Pokémon Go. The BEST distraction ever!
Teens and adults should still exercise caution about who they talk to and where they go. Also, teens still need to learn how to crush their anxiety and develop skills to take back their lives, but Pokémon Go is a much needed tool to add to the anxiety-crushing toolbox!
For more help with teen anxiety check out the newly released Anxiety Sucks! A Teen Survival Guide. (Affil. Link).