Dungeons & Dragons provides anxiety relief

Corey Jepsen, Columnist

If three years ago you told me I would be into Dungeons & Dragons, I wouldn’t have believed you. When I was younger, I saw it as the peak of being a nerd and not the trendy kind. I associated it with middle-aged men living in their mother’s basement — but now it seems that it defies those stereotypes. It’s become an outlet for those with anxiety to escape the stress of everyday life and an open forum for those with diverse identities to explore themselves.

My first exposure to Dungeons & Dragons was at a neighbor’s house when I was in seventh grade. I had no clue what was happening and didn’t really get involved in the game, but it was fascinating to listen to and I found myself intrigued. But of course, I forgot about it for several years, until I started listening to various actual-play Dungeons & Dragons games and it rekindled my interest.

Carter Uslabar
Dungeons & Dragons helps players relieve stress and anxiety.

After a while, I put together a group of people to get a game going. I would be running the game, telling the story. I was very anxious — this was the first time I’d ever done this, and I felt like there were massive expectations of me. I spent the first half hour of the game stumbling over my words. As we continued, I hit my stride and found that I was enjoying myself.

As the months passed and our game continued, I found myself much more confident in my abilities. I could improv whole gaming sessions and weirdly enough, my newfound confidence transferred outside of the gaming table. I felt more at ease around others. My conversations started to feel more natural than they had before.

As that campaign came to an unfortunate end, I realized how much Dungeons & Dragons had helped me grow as a person. It turns out, I’m not the only one — a lot of the tabletop gaming communities feel the same. It’s a great way to get out of your head for a little bit.

I also encountered some people who said that while struggling with their gender identity or sexuality, playing a character of the identities in question was a good way to test the waters. Having a character be named a name you’re considering for yourself is just one way to see if it fits and to get used to your new name. I have a few friends who got their names this way and all are glad they did. It gives you the chance to see the world from a new point of view.

For me, D&D has also been a great way to build a community. There’s a reason shows like Critical Role are so popular and it’s because it’s a good way to get to know people and strengthen existing bonds. D&D sessions can be like doing trust falls for three and a half hours – because you’re trusting the other people in your gaming group to support you in furthering the narrative in a way that benefits everyone at the table.

Overall, D&D has helped me a great deal with my own anxiety. When I’m stressed, I go to my laptop and open up a fresh document and start to plan out what my group might face next week. For a little while, I don’t have to worry about exams or papers — my sole concern is how to warlock-proof this important location.