Mental Health Benefits of D&D. Fascinating.

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A player in my current campaign (not a character) has a history of struggling with some mental health issues. I've noticed a couple things (and of course keep in mind that my PhD is in literature, not psychology or counseling), 1) D&D definately helps them blow off steam and let out some aggression in a positive way, 2) D&D seems to be giving the person a greater sense of confidence (I believe this is because there character attempts things and often succeeds), 3) as Cognitive Therapy D&D tends to help with healthy cognitive mapping as well as creative problem solving and memory, and 4) Social skills seem to improve both from the recognition of in-game tropes and cues to sitting around the table in real life with friends and laughing about how stupid it was to try to loudly chop down a wooden door when 25 Kobolds are in the next room. I know some of this seems obvious, but for the people struggling with such afflictions, there is nothing easy or obvious about it.

Just some observations. I was wondering if anyone else had noticed such experiences. And a thank you to the developers of such a game. Keep playing, and spread the word.
The very first article about D&D I ever read, wayyyyy back in the late late 70's (maybe '80 or '81, but no later) talked about how the phenomenon of roleplaying was being watched by the Psychology field and that some had started to use it in practice (mind you, I was -very- young, so this was a layman's-style article).  Once the Satanic Panic hit though, you'd never find mention of it again even though the concept of roleplaying itself is a mainstay in Psychology now, from individual through group therapies.  So at least on a fundamental level, the principles of it being 'healthful' are very solid.

Over the years I've watched more than a couple players become more socially adept after gaming.  It's not a guaranteed thing of course...but it does seem to help imo.

" flashes bright, then fades away.  It can't protect, it can only destroy."

It certainly helps me with my depression. More so than literally anything else I've tried (and orders of magnitude better than any medication I've tried).

"My flying carpet is full of elves."

D&D definitely improves mental health;

Just as long as you stay away from these forums ;)

Sorry.  Couldn't resist!
That's awesome to hear. I'm glad some others have noticed this as well. Duskweaver, is there a side of roleplaying that I had left out that you feel really helps you and depression? I think I'll start doign some actual research into previously written scholarly articles. 
Duskweaver, is there a side of roleplaying that I had left out that you feel really helps you and depression?

It's basically for the reasons you stated in your OP. I'm sure you understand that I don't want to really discuss details on a public forum (or even via PM with someone I don't know). I don't mind people knowing I suffer from depression (because I think it's a good thing for people to get a sense of how common it is), but that's as far as I am willing to go.

"My flying carpet is full of elves."

Duskweaver, thank you for sharing. A little bit more research on my end found a few studies, some in the 80's and 90's confirming the mental instability of individuals who had become regular players, and some form the last few years which seemed to take a different stance. 

Here are a couple pertaining to mental health if you are as interested in this as I am. =);2-9/abstract?deniedAccessCustomisedMessage=&userIsAuthenticated=false

So interesting. Feel free to add more if anyone knows of more research. The website, RPG research, looks to be quite fascinating. I'm going to look around it more.


One of our players suffers from Asperger Syndrome, among other things, and roleplaying has definitely helped him. When I first met him at Toys 'R' Us' ccg league about a decade ago he was a fairly typical autistic kid: he lived in a world of his own and reacted strongly, and sometimes violently, to anything and anyone that disturbed it.

At the time my wife and I ran the only kid-friendly game store in town (the other store actively ran them off) and I was there partly to advertise our store by word of mouth. Since his mom (now one of our best friends) worked a couple of blocks from our downtown store, it wasn't long before they became regulars (she plays magic and various trpgs; she was even in my very first GURPS campaign but he didn't yet roleplay at that point). That was late '03 or early '04.

He remains part of our core roleplaying group and also plays a number of ccgs. While he still doesn't always understand sarcasm directed at him, he has started using it himself. He has advanced to the point that most people aren't even aware of his autism unless someone pushes one of his buttons; that rarely happens except against particular tournament opponents, and he generally prefers to drop from the tournament rather than play them.

While his improvement isn't entirely from playing roleplaying games (mostly GURPS and HackMaster since we only started playing D&D relatively recently), it is from gaming in general and just hanging out with gamers. He's even planning to start his first campaign (GURPS Jak & Daxter) as soon as everyone's characters are done.

For a couple of seasons last year most of our Encounters group had some form of autism, and all of us have some sort of mental or emotional issue. My wife and I both have pretty severe Depression. Sometimes the apathy overwhelms me to the point that only my responsibility to the group gets me out of the house at all, so I am frequently thankful that I get to run Encounters even though D&D is far from my favorite system.

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Through faith you have been saved by grace and not by works. -Ep 2:8-9

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All of this is awesome information. I have always felt that roleplaying would "save the world" hehehe.

But seriously, to me RP is a fantastic outlet for my own inner turmoils. It is a distraction, a point of focus, a way to hang out with good friends, and a hobby to share with my partner (yes, I have a gamer girlfriend, I'm the luckiest guy in town). I spent several years in therapy to help overcome several issues of insecurity (something I will likely work on my entire life) and when I told my therapist that I played D&D as my main hobby he used the concept of RP to help direct my recovery. It has been a powerful force in my life for over 30 years (been playing since I was 11) and I always look forward to my next gaming session.

 Kitsunegami, the information you've posted on the gamer you know with Asperger's Syndrome is awesome. My partner and I have a daughter with Autism and so I'm always inspired by any story of things that help those at various points along the spectrum to more easily interact with us mundane people!
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