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People Are Using Pokémon Go to Fight Anxiety and Depression

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Social anxiety, depression, and mood disorders aren't topics to joke about. Most everything else is fair game -- especially given that you already know this article is about Pokémon Go, too. But the wildly popular game has come with an unexpected upside for a lot of people: helping them with their mental health struggles.

As detailed in a post on Psych Central, John M. Grohol, Psy.D., explains how the game's augmented reality format works as a conduit to make people exercise, socialize, and get outside their homes -- all real challenges for anyone dealing with mental health issues.

"For a person suffering from depression or another mood disorder, the idea of exercise can be nearly impossible to contemplate, much less do," Grohol wrote. "For someone suffering from social anxiety, the idea of going outside and possibly bumping into others who may want to talk to you is daunting."

Now, that's not to say doctors are prescribing bouts of Pokémon Go to their patients, but rather, that the game enables people to take on these struggles in a roundabout way. And numerous studies over time have cited "a positive benefit associated with exercise involvement" in battling depression.

Many hypotheses exist to explain the connection, including just the idea of self-efficacy, or the "belief that one possesses the necessary skills to complete a task as well as the confidence that the task can actually be completed with the desired outcome obtained." In essence, catching 'em all can build confidence.

Social media has also exploded with suggestions that many are using the game to help themselves.

Mind you, these are all social media posts, and as anecdotal as evidence comes. But just as Pokémon Go has evolved into a full-blown phenomenon, the focus has shifted from collecting every one and owning gyms to the unintended real-world benefits of playing.

"The developers behind Pokemon Go didn’t mean to create a mental health gaming app," Grohol wrote. "But they’ve done so, and the effects seem to be largely positive."

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Ryan Craggs is Thrillist's Senior News Editor. His best Pokémon is now a CP 300 Pidgeot he calls Sky Rat. Follow him @ryanrcraggs.