Is Wordle Harming Mental Health?

A simple game of guessing a five-letter word in six tries became a global phenomenon during the pandemic, offering a mental escape during lockdowns.

Wordle, along with other online games, quickly integrated into the daily routines of many. But what began as a delightful diversion might now be impacting our mental health in unexpected ways.

Wordle was launched to the public in October 2021 and was later acquired by The New York Times in January 2022. The game’s premise is straightforward: guess a five-letter word in six attempts, with feedback provided through coloured tiles—green for correct letters in the right place, yellow for correct letters in the wrong place, and grey for incorrect letters.

However, a recent Daily Beast report suggests that the New York Times’ suite of games, including Wordle, Connections, and the Mini Crossword, might be more detrimental than beneficial to our mental well-being. Dr Clifford Sussman, a psychiatrist specialising in internet and gaming addiction, explains that our brains are struggling to cope with the constant stimulation these games provide.

“Technology today offers a shortcut to everything, and our brains can’t resist that. This shortcut to a sense of accomplishment releases dopamine, leading to potentially compulsive behaviours,” he said.

Psychologist Jennifer Gittleman notes that some patients are unable to complete their daily tasks due to the time spent on these games. Individuals, particularly those with anxiety or perfectionism, may find that failing to solve the puzzle disrupts their routine and negatively impacts their day.

Hallie Kritsas, a licensed therapist and avid Wordle player, has observed similar issues among her younger clients. “They like having structure and routine. When they can’t complete the Wordle or solve the Mini Crossword in a set time, it can throw off their day,” she explains. This frustration can lead to a cycle of self-doubt and anxiety.

To mitigate the negative effects, Kritsas suggests setting time limits for these games. “Give yourself five or ten minutes to play. If you can’t solve it within that time, move on for the day,” she advises. Additionally, discussing the impact of the game with a therapist or a loved one can help players develop healthier habits.

While some users joke about the mental strain caused by losing at Wordle, for others, the impact is real and significant. Nevertheless, Kritsas emphasizes that such cases are relatively rare. Most people enjoy these games without experiencing substantial distress.

Ultimately, it’s essential to remember that these games are meant for enjoyment. “Recognise that it’s just a game. No one else will know if you solved it or not,” Kritsas said.

For those feeling overwhelmed, stepping back and exploring alternative activities might be key to maintaining a healthy balance. –

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