Riyadh — An 18-year-old Saudihas created a video-game tool to diagnose generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) in teenagers.
As reported by the Smithsonian magazine, the proposal has been accepted as a screener for personality disorders and anxiety.
Alqahtani began researching as a participant in Mawhiba, a national STEM program for gifted-and-talented students in Saudi Arabia.
The magazine writes, Alqahtani resolved to do something about the anxiety she’d noticed around her and the sense that taking the immediate step of going to a psychologist might daunt some teens. Research bore out her observations: The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that anxiety is in the top ten causes of teen illness and disability.
Instead of building a game from scratch, Alqahtani built a module “feature” that users access within a preexisting video game. However, she didn’t actually code the feature for the prototype but alternatively produced a video simulation of how it would look like to live within the game of “Minecraft,” the Smithsonian reported.
Alqahtani drew on one of her hobbies — she makes short films — and created a video that looked like “Minecraft: Story Mode,” in which players choose their adventures by indicating how they’d like to respond to various scenarios.
In Alqahtani’s version, users choose how they’d react in different, potentially anxiety-provoking scenarios instead of deciding which character to save from a monstrous enemy. In scoring the assessment, a higher score, after completing 13 of these questions, should indicate higher anxiety levels.
To develop the different scenarios, Alqahtani adapted a psychometric from the 1950s, the Taylor Manifest Anxiety Scale, the first internationally utilized measurement of someone’s tendency towards anxiousness.
Ultimately, her analysis showed that the video-game-scenario results corresponded with those of the actual TMAS; people’s scores on one measure resembled their scores on the other.
She plans to add multiple different metrics of anxiety to her game feature to make its assessment more complete and is eager to find collaborators to propel the project forward.