Depression, Anxiety and Gaming
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Ennis
Montana
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Hello, My name is Alan and I am depressed.

This is my first geek list and I feel comfortable posting it because I have somewhat a sense of anonymity here on the geek. I have been a long time lurker and now am a new member.

My main question is this: do any other people here suffer from (or know someone who suffers from) depression and/or anxiety disorders? and if so, do they have ways to overcome them that involve board games?

I've struggled with depression my entire life and do have some occasional anxiety orders. This goes back to my childhood where I was constantly beat by my parents severely on a regular basis and verbally abused as well. This was back in the 70's and things were different then too, I remember the principal at school used to smack around kids who were bad too, and I remember the bus driver pulling over to spank kids once in awhile...

Now, I was never hit on the bus or in school, I was a good kid, the teachers loved me, but when I was home it was a living nightmare, my parents were drunks, I would be abused almost as if it was fun for them... despite knowing where my problem originated, I have never been able to fully overcome it.

The amazing people here on BGG have surprised me and I am happy to hear the stories of other people, it is an awesome community and I am happy to be a part of it.

I started a support group here on BGG, for anyone who is interested, please take a moment to stop by and say hello!

Depression, Anxiety and Gaming (Support Group)

So, the main reason for this list, is for people who may be in a similar situation to me to talk about how gaming possibly helps them, and possibly share some stories and situations with me.

I write this Geeklist to help others in my position and hopefully learn something new for myself as well...It would also be nice to know I am not alone.
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1. Board Game: Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures Game [Average Rating:7.86 Overall Rank:52] [Average Rating:7.86 Unranked]
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This game was an impulse buy at Target, and since that impulse by a year or so back, I've gotten another base set and two of each boosters from the first wave.

I have an amazing time playing this game with my oldest son. We alternate between what sides we play and the size of the fleets we use, but this game has always been an "instant high" for me.

If I am ever feeling down in the dumps and my son says "Hey Dad, want to setup X-Wing and have a few matches", things instantly seem brighter and we have a great time.
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2. Board Game: Crash Canyon [Average Rating:6.24 Overall Rank:8742]
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This is a great family game, even for the wife and wee ones. Everyone can play, laugh and have fun. I would love some recommendations on games like this that are similar in which the rules are simple and the game can be enjoyed by all family members.
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3. Board Game: Descent: Journeys in the Dark (Second Edition) – Lair of the Wyrm [Average Rating:7.89 Unranked] [Average Rating:7.89 Unranked]
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I do not own this game, but ordered it yesterday. The reason I put it on here was because I really liked the first one and played with some friends awhile back and went through all of the scenarios in the main set.

While playing this game, I can focus on my tasks and objectives at hand and kind of forget about the "outside" world. I am eager to get the second edition and will also be ordering the upgrade kit so my minis from the first edition can be used!
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4. Board Game: Carcassonne [Average Rating:7.43 Overall Rank:128] [Average Rating:7.43 Unranked]
Jason Josephson
Canada
Saskatoon
SK
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This game is always a great play, but I felt I would post to talk more about the other ways board gaming helps me deal with depression. Just yesterday, in fact, I spent my afternoon (while at home fighting off a particularly bad day) building a new insert for the big box for this game. It isn't much, but just working for a few hours focussed on this was enough to break me out of my low.
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5. Board Game: Android: Netrunner [Average Rating:7.98 Overall Rank:31]
Patrick G.
United States
Glenshaw
Pennsylvania
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Really..any of the competitive LCG's would work. Although game of thrones might kill you. Literally. Some of those games get REALLY intense.
The reason I suggest games like this though is:
1) You can immerse yourself in it as much as you want. Have an idea for a deck? Great... build it on cardgamedb.com. Test it in real life or on OCTGN(see below). Don't like something about it? Tweak it or throw the whole idea out and start over. You can spend hours throwing yourself into deckbuilding instead of dwelling about whatever happens to be bothering you at that moment.

2) You can play it online(Google OCTGN) or in real life. Best part of real life is the LCG world has mostly avoided the angry retards that populate so many MTG tournies.

3) It's fun as hell.

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6. Board Game: Samurai [Average Rating:7.44 Overall Rank:154]
Alfred Wallace
United States
Champaign
IL
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I'm bipolar. (Or, if you prefer, "I have bipolar disorder," "I have a diagnosis of bipolar disorder," or whatever.) A lot of bipolar folk have an island of "sanity," where the demons go hide for reasons nobody really understands. Back when I was an undergrad--misdiagnosed, mismedicated, and severely problematic--I was a mess almost everywhere in my life, except the game table. When I was playing games, everything calmed down and I was in control again. Luckily, I lived in a place where I could find a game night almost every night of the week...when I was on my own, it would often be trouble.

Nowadays, I'm getting "real" treatment and I haven't had any trouble for years. I feel like this situation is getting less fragile, thanks partly to meds but also to behavioral changes, knowing myself better, and so on. I still have anxiety issues, but one of the symptoms lately has been that I've been shying away from going to a local game night...ah well.

So I'm not sure I'm any help!
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7. Board Game: Small World [Average Rating:7.35 Overall Rank:158] [Average Rating:7.35 Unranked]
Joel Weeks
United States
Roswell
Georgia
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Hi Patrick, I also suffer from depression and panic attacks. If not for my medication I literally would not be able to get out of bed in the morning. I started gaming in 2005, the year in which I reached my nadir. So, I looked up Atlanta board games and found a group of people who are now my family. When my head aches from depression I push myself out of the house to go gaming. Filling my mind with the puzzle of figuring out board games and sharing laughter with my friends never fails to make me feel better.
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8. Board Game: Manila [Average Rating:7.01 Overall Rank:566]
Tony Allen
United States
Grand Prairie
Texas
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I also have periods of depression. The heavy games don't help me much as they seem to induce extra stress on me. So I tend toward the lighter games that have some simple yet clever mechanics that also causes some laughter during play. Manila is a great fun game that always is a hit with new players, family and casual gamers. It has just the right amount of luck for me and it sure does the job of getting me out of the down times. I also just got Love Letter and it is amazing for its fun factor with such few cards and extremely small price. And I can't promote Dixit enough. My favorite party game in years.

Laughter really does it for me.
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9. Board Game: Tigris & Euphrates [Average Rating:7.72 Overall Rank:60]
Stephen Jacobsen
United States
Milwaukie
Oregon
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Hey Alan,
You're definitely not alone. I also go into bouts of depression and anxiety, with prominent fatigue/apathy. Board games help me a ton. If I go through a period of not playing games for a week or two (or more), I sometimes look at my game shelf and think- Why do I even have these games? Then I go to a local game night and find my answer. I actually had an incident recently where my friends at a game night specifically requested several of my games to be played at the following week's event (a first for me! I tend to just play what other people bring and occasionally my games get played. I'm shy to suggest my own). This made me surprisingly happy and I made it a priority to show up the following week.

For me, games provide a way for me to keep my mind busy and focused. They are a way to focus my attention and work within a specific frame-work (the rules of the game). They provide an achievable goal and objective to set your mind towards. It's a lot of fun to work through all the decisions and while trying to out-wit/ out-play your opponents.

I have social anxieties, and have trouble interacting with others (mostly people I don't know, or in a group setting). Games provide me with a fun way of doing so. They are excellent ice-breakers and a method of "parallel playing," where you can all be participating and engaged in the same activity, but are not necessarily disclosing deeply personal aspects of your self (only what's inferred through your style of game-play).

If it weren't for games, I would have less friends and social interactions. In fact, before I went to local game nights I had exactly one (local) friend outside of my school (I need to call him by-the-way). I look forward to my gaming events each week. They give me something to be really excited about.
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10. Board Game: The Looney Bin [Average Rating:6.33 Overall Rank:9140]
patrick stevens
United States
Los Angeles
California
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And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.
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Patrick - you are not alone. Depression and anxiety led me to create the Looney Bin. Here we can laugh with others at ourselves.
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11. Board Game: Twilight Struggle [Average Rating:8.36 Overall Rank:3]
It's just a ride...
England
Bury St Edmunds
Suffolk
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Brave geeklist. Inspired me to tell my tale.

Although I didn't know it at the time, I was psychologically abused as a child and into my teens. How could I not know? Well, I just thought that that was how things were for everyone. I just thought that everyone felt shit all the time, and that life was just grim.

Fast forward a few years, and I find myself at university. I worked very hard to get there, just to get out of the situation I was in. I fell exceptionally deeply in love with a wonderful free-spirited Wiltshire lass, who felt the same about me. Thing is though, I had no idea whatsoever how to deal with the emotions that this brought up, or how to engage, meaningfully, with another human being. So, it all went to shit, and I was back to feeling awful again, after a brief period (probably the only period in my life up to that point) of feeling happiness.

So, University came and went, another relationship started (this one lasted 10 years), and I entered the world of work. Nothing changed, the 'black cloud' was still there, and, if anything, was growing stronger.

OK, I thought, life really is just an utter pile of shit then. Fair enough, and I just sort of got on with stuff, managing not to let the black cloud hinder me too much, although it never went away. Incidentally, I call it the black cloud, because many people have said to me that when I am particularly low, they can almost see a black cloud hanging over my head.

Fast forward to three years ago. I'm now in my early 40's, with a wonderful woman whom I adore, and who, more than anyone else I've ever met, understands me and my own personal cumulonimbus. My career has been going well, in a job I love, and I find myself, more by accident than design, in a senior position, responsible for the safety and wellbeing of a great number of very vulnerable people, and the people who care for them.

Then it all goes wrong. Whatever coping strategy I had subconsciously developed over the years gradually stopped working, and I became less and less able to function in the way that I used to. I tried very hard to hide it from those I was working with, and succeeded, but one day I got up, and then I just stopped. I broke down into such a mess of tears, despair, humiliation and pain that I find it very difficult to even think about, two years later. I haven't worked in that time, and am under the care of the district mental health team, which is ironic, to say the least.

It is only now that I realise that all those years of feeling shit, was actually Depression. Life wasn't like that for everyone, and keeping a lid on it for over 20 years had finally taken it's toll, and in a very destructive way.

Through it all though, I had gaming. Started in my early teens with a group of friends, took a few breaks here and there over the years, mostly enforced by circumstances, but never lost the love of it.

Without realising it, I had started to use gaming as a means of distraction. That's why I chose Twilight Struggle to represent this post. In the couple of years leading up to my breakdown, I would play it obsessively, at wargameroom. I'd come home from work, log on, and play maybe three or four games in an evening. Weekends? I'd get maybe 10-15 games in a day. I didn't know why at the time, other than that I found it enjoyable. I know why now. It was because when I was playing, the pain went away, and when a game finished, it came back, and I didn't want it to come back, I wanted it to stay away.

I'm getting better now, but sometimes the motivation to play is just not there. I look at the games on the shelf, but sometimes, I simply cannot get one down to start playing, no matter how much I want to. This may be difficult to understand for some, but loss of motivation is very common with Depression.

I go to a regular gaming group, every Thursday, with a bunch of guys I met not long before the breakdown, and they, along with my wife, kids, and the NHS, have been a big part of my recovery. The camaraderie, banter, and gaming helped me to feel wanted, intellectually stimulated, and to know that my existence actually had some sort of point (not that I've figured out what it is yet), as opposed to feeling that my existence was pointless, as I had done for so many years.

Thanks for reading this far
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12. Board Game: Like Lions They Fought [Average Rating:6.39 Overall Rank:7008]
Gabriele Stecchi
Italy
Milano
Milano
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I suffer from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and I have been depressed for many years. I build, day by day, my personal reboot thanks to my wondeful wife and daughter, professional help and constant medication. Anxiety is still popping up, but I'm learning to manage it.

Please seek professional help, and stick with your family as much as you can.
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13. Board Game: Heroes of Normandie [Average Rating:7.63 Overall Rank:655] [Average Rating:7.63 Unranked]
Will Borrall
United States
Virginia
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Hi, brother. I suffer from PTSD and cyclothymia (biochemical biploar), and am a survivor of a suicide attempt in 2000. I've come a long way since then, thanks to medicine and lots of cognitive therepy, as well as the blessings of faith and a wonderful wife who is very supportive. For me, boardgames (and RPGs) were (and are) my safe escape. I find any sort of World War Two games to be my favorite, because I can immerse myself in the story and the history and that helps me refocus my emotional state. Good luck to you, and please email me if you need any support.
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14. Board Game: Smash Up [Average Rating:6.87 Overall Rank:567] [Average Rating:6.87 Unranked]
Mike Deich
United States
Portland
Oregon
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This game is fun and not too much to think about! It's really good for playing with casual friends or family. This is one of the games I break out if I need to play something to get me out of a depression slump. It's not super long and I get to mix and match different factions like pirates and ninjas! I enjoy that I can pretty much teach this to anyone... for example last night we had my fiances friend staying with us while she's in the area and I was feeling a lot of anxiety and this was a great way to calm down and break the ice with a new person. This is a great geeklist, I'm glad to know others have the same issues I do! Anyway just my 2 cents.
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15. Board Game: Ground Floor [Average Rating:7.14 Overall Rank:885]
Dr Edward Locke
United States
Washington
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You're not alone, Alan.

I have been diagnosed as bipolar type 2, which basically means I function normally when I'm in a rare manic state, and fluctuate between that and deep depression. I struggle with the depression part of it, and so do my friends (who are my family). I've dealt with it all my life, but only in the past ten years was I (with help) able to understand why I felt this way.

Sometimes it's tough to get myself psyched up for a game night. I once had a panic attack in the middle of one. Luckily, I have great friends who are patient with me. I know sometimes that they don't understand why I can't be as social as they'd like. But they are good enough friends to tolerate it, and stay connected.

Boardgames keep me connected in a way that other types of gaming don't. Getting together with friends centers me, and helps provide the energy I need to get through the rest of the week. No, I don't always have a great night, but I have a good one most of the time.

I'm picking Ground Floor for the list because it's new to me, and the name reminds me that it's where I need to start every day to build myself up to face the world.

No, you're not alone. You're in good company. And welcome to the Geek.
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16. Board Game: Diplomacy [Average Rating:7.06 Overall Rank:475]
Andrew L.
United States
Lawrence
Kansas
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For the past 4 years, I've been dealing with GAD (generalized anxiety disorder). I'm fortunate in the sense that I have been able to deal with it by making choices for me (I dropped out of law school and haven't had a ton of anxiety attacks since) and by attending counseling at times, but it still rears its head every now and then.

The funny thing is that my trigger is interpersonal interactions, which you would think would mean that board gaming is out; I mean, that's all gaming is!

However, when I play games, I'm not focusing on if someone is upset with me, or if I did something to wrong them, or if I'm going to be put in an awkward position between two people. I'm focusing on playing a game. I have yet to experience any issues while gaming, and I hope this trend continues.
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17. Board Game: Ticket to Ride [Average Rating:7.48 Overall Rank:110] [Average Rating:7.48 Unranked]
Jordan " ; " Czop
Canada
Victoria
British Columbia
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I work at a community center in my home-town mostly working with families who are experiencing difficulties with either Child Protective services or who have children with some form of a mental health diagnosis. As you might imagine, I work with many families who are experiencing stress and anxiety.

As a way to respond to the concerns that I was seeing from our clientele I recently I suggested to my boss that we start a board game group for teens. I had no idea what the response would be when I began and what I have found is that many of the youth who choose to attend either have anxiety, depression, both, or some other mental health issue.

What I have found is that the best part of this group is that these youth have a place to connect and learn how to engage socially with their peers and as you said "just have some fun". The focus can be on the game rather than direct face-to-face interactions. What I really enjoy seeing is when youth are able to come week after week and connect over a game or two. This really is a meaningful part of my job and, I think, successfully meets the purpose of the group.

So no, you are not alone, mental health --and more specifically depression and anxiety-- are a widespread issue in our society. I think gaming itself is therapeutic in our journey for health. At least that is the way I see it.
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18. Board Game: Health [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
Bill Allen
Australia
Ngunnawal, Canberra
ACT
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Hi Alan,

I've been very lucky, but I still suffer from bouts of depression.

I had a great childhood, I've got a wonderful wife and 4 great kids, and a good paying job I enjoy, but apparently that isn't enough.

Quite a while ago, I came down with psoriatic arthritis. The constant background pain and fatigue was bad enough, but the side effects from the medication were even worse for me. I got angry far too easy (which will seem bizarre to many of my friends) and got really really depressed. Medication helped but the big turn around for me was fortnightly injections (Humira) which has been amazing at managing my arthritis without all the horrible side effects. (Okay, I suppress my immune system but that is nothing compared to where I was).

Incidentally, apparently some studies are also suggetsing that Humira is having some success is treating depression which has been resistant to other medications.

So everything should be fine now, right? Well, it should be, but I still hit my bouts and it can be a struggle. I feel myself withdrawing from my friends and having less interest in the things I love doing (e.g. boardgames). It probably doesn't help that I feel very busy either, so it can be too easy to find excuses.

However, when I do play, I enjoy myself. In fact, the more brain buring it is, often the more fun! Also, playing with the kids which can seem like a chore before I do it, suddenly are really enjoyable experiences. You'd think that would be enough to convince me, but apparently no. However, my wife does recognise it when I tend to be slipping and she is great at encouraging me to play more boardgames and the like during these times.

So, yes, you are not alone and I appreciate you sharing your own experience.

Thank you.

Bill
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19. Board Game: Zombicide [Average Rating:7.31 Overall Rank:275] [Average Rating:7.31 Unranked]
Josh
United States
Pueblo
Colorado
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I've been a long time sufferer of depression also. For about the past decade I was doing ok with just putting on the mask and not letting it show too badly, but last year hit hard. Got laid off from my job and my mom lost her fight with cancer nine days later. The depression, anxiety, and now grief was too much to handle all combined. Finally made a call to get help when I woke up one day and couldn't muster the energy to get out of bed, and it scared me. I just laid there and cried for a few hours.

Now I'm going to therapy and on meds. They're helping, along with my gaming hobby. I've taken up painting to help cope, and give me a basket to weave. Weaving My Basket is a phrase I use to explain the activity one does to keep themselves sane during a bad bout or anxiety spell. I started a blog here on BGG to keep track of what all I've painted and share with others.

Thank you for sharing your story, there's a lot of good people here who are willing to listen or share their experiences.

ICD-9 296.33
Major depressive affective disorder, recurrent episode, severe, without mention of psychotic behavior


That is what it says on my ADA job accommodation at work. It's not who I am, it's what is wrong with me. You are more than your illness.

Edit:
Four years later and I've had a mental breakdown, left my old career, was out of work for about a year, and am now working for a mental health provider as a Peer Support Specialist. I'm working hard on my recovery and am far enough along to help others through theirs.
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20. Board Game: Demolition Derby [Average Rating:5.30 Unranked]
Harold Tessmann III
United States
Ypsilanti
Michigan
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Besides the direct effects of, well, any significant health problem (not just mental), the sufferer has to put up with family, friends, and acquaintances who try to help in unhelpful ways or who want to know what it feels like. I've come to believe that a person can't understand a health problem until they've experienced it for themself, no matter how much they try. Up until just recently, I hadn't found a better expression of depression than that offered by actor Hugh Laurie. He realized he suffered from depression while participating in a demolition derby (hence the item). He saw two cars collide and explode in front of him and realized he felt neither excited nor frightened but bored. Laurie noted on Inside the Actors' Studio, "Boredom is not an appropriate response to exploding cars."

Just this month I've found a much more thorough account of depression. If you use the Internet much, you might have seen people refer to the alot, a grammatical error become mythic creature or the "Clean [or other verb] all the things!" image macro. (On rereading, these depict OCD and manic-depression pretty well.) A year and a half ago, author/artist/creator of those things Allie Brosh posted a pretty expressive description of depression, followed up this month by an intermission and another look at depression, including a depiction of the "just cheer up!" style of help some people offer. Those of you who don't suffer from depression, this might give you some idea what it feels like.

(OCD I can describe thusly: the tension between letting people touch unsleeved cards and the unpleasantness of how much it costs to sleeve everything; the insistence that people wash their hands before playing my games, and also after using the bathroom, and ideally after eating chips and other direct-contact foods.)
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21. Board Game: Tix [Average Rating:6.92 Unranked]
Martijn Althuizen
Netherlands
Helmond
Noord Brabant
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Hi Alan,

Welcome to BGG!

Designing Tix (and other games) helped me through the worst period of depression I ever had (thus far) in my life. Now it's back to fairly manageable levels again. But it wasn't very pretty back then.

I've no problem with telling others more about my story, but only if they're interested. So drop me a GeekMail if that's the case.

At the moment I try and be alone as much as possible. Being around others almost always makes me feel like I need to 'act' (same way you describe it). And I no longer want to do that. There are some people that can deal with my depressive nature in a way that I'm okay with. By which I mean that they don't try and help me in any way, that they don't 'relate' it to themselves (not sure if that's the proper way to put it in English..), and that it doesn't affect their own feelings/behavior too much.

So even though I don't play games very often, whenever I do play a game I almost always do really enjoy it. The right game with the right person(s) at the right time, I guess..

Martijn
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22. Board Game: Agricola [Average Rating:8.05 Overall Rank:14]
Marion
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Hi there...:
my problem is "Tinnitus"......
actually when I started gaming I was only looking for something where I could use my brain - make strategical decisions - think around two or three corners.....
After I got "Agricola", playing it, again and again.....I realised that I completely forget the Tinnitus, don´t hear a thing, what a relief!!!!
Since then gaming is a major part of my life....
Marion
glad you have an awesome family now....
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23. Board Game: Descent: Journeys in the Dark [Average Rating:7.34 Overall Rank:236]
Mark Paul
United States
Springfield
Massachusetts
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I am a mental health therapist and reading your post was like reading my life story. I uses gaming in my treatment for depression and anxiety. I won't get into the clinical realities of depression, you have no doubt heard them and are living them now.

I will tell you what gaming can do for you. Depression attacks your self esteem, motivation and pleasure in relating to others. Those who are depressed tend to withdraw from life and others around them. Games are basically a rules and equipment for interacting with others.

I feel uncomfortable just talking or relating to people, ieven in my family. I can though take out a game and suddenly I am enjoying interacting with others. Depression brings on isolation and withdrawl. Gaming gives a tool for interacting and having fun with others.


My membership on BGG means a great deal to me. I feel part of a community. Use this and gaming in your own life and it will be a tool in coping with the reality of depression.

Good luck, Fight the good fight.... hope to play you at an LCG sometime.

Mark
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24. Board Game: Catan: Junior [Average Rating:6.75 Overall Rank:1402]
Zeke
United States
Bloomington
Minnesota
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I too have found I can draw strength from my children. What an incredible resource! Here in my home I have a kid who is always ready to bust out the board games and kick dad's ass once more for good measure.

Some other folks on this list have commented on the "buy, buy, buy" collection mentality that tends to rear its ugly head among us gaming enthusiasts. I have felt this pull, and indeed it used to cause me a great deal more stress than it does now.

Before I had kids, it felt like I had a lot more budget to spend on various games. As the family grew, it seemed like I had almost no budget to spend on games and certainly not enough to afford a fraction of the cool games I was hearing about.

The epiphany I eventually had was this: when I am thinking about buying a new game, what I subconsciously really want is to play games with other people. Because I get depressed though it gets hard to initiate anything. Buying games is a solitary activity, while playing games is interactive. If I go ahead and play some games I already have, I get all the same positive feelings as buying…while saving the cash for mortgage, daycare, food and gas. So the kids (who want to play games all the time) really create a much healthier situation!

But of course when I DO get a new game around my birthday or Christmas…tearing off that box and smelling that fresh game smell is very sweet indeed.
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25. Board Game: Terra Mystica [Average Rating:8.29 Overall Rank:5]
Philip Thomas
United Kingdom
London
London
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Hi. I'm Philip and I suffer from Bipolar Disorder. You can read more about it in my blog:

http://boardgamegeek.com/blog/1315/a-bipolar-gamer

Thankfully my medication has kept me well for more than eight years now.
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