Study Suggests Interaction with Avatars May Ease Depression in Young Adults
Anyone who has heard of computer games is likely aware that in order to play many of these games, users create an avatar that looks like an animated person to represent the player. These types of games are widely popular among young adults aged 18-25. Now a new study is stating that this type of computerized interaction between avatars may help ease the symptoms of depression.
According to the preliminary results of this study, conducted by researchers at Case Western Reserve University, symptoms of depression might be severely reduced when young adults use avatars that imitate a medical professional such as a nurse or doctor. The reason for this is due to the fact that young people, either through a lack of medical insurance or due to the stigma of talking to medical personnel about their depression, don’t often visit a doctor or mental health professional to help them cope with their symptoms. The avatars are used to give them a simulated experience at the doctor’s office to help take the fear out of what to expect when they get there.
The results of this study were published in the current Applied Nursing Research journal article that is titled: "Avatar-based depression self-management technology: promising approach to improve depression symptoms among young adults."
Melissa Pinto, PhD, RN, a KL2 clinical research scholar and instructor at Case Western Reserve's Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing, and her colleagues worked with eSmart developers in creating an avatar-based intervention for young adults to help them ease their depression symptoms.
This new study may help to reduce the number of antidepressant medications used to treat depressive conditions and their sometimes deadly side effects. Some of the medications used include Paxil and Effexor. Both Paxil and Effexor can cause serious side effects, including violent and suicidal thoughts and behavior in patients who use the pills. The pills also cause babies of mothers who take the drug while pregnant to be born with various birth defects, including PPHN, spina bifida, neural tube defects and oral clefts. Should this study prove to work, young adults may be able to combat their conditions without all of the side effects. That alone makes this newest study worth follow-up efforts.