DISCLAIMER: I’m not a doctor and this post is not medical advice. I’m just a guy writing a cosplay blog, and what I’m about to share has been my own personal experience. However, definitely see a doctor for mental health issues and questions.

Cosplay and mental health; for some reason, those two seem to go together a lot.

If you’ve been in the cosplay community for a while, you probably hear about cosplayers and their mental health. Unfortunately, it’s usually about negative things: how we cosplayers are mentally ill, how we are toxic, how crazy we are. I mean, I could agree a little bit about us being crazy 😉

But today I wanted to talk about the stuff that doesn’t get much attention online or in the media: the positive things that cosplay can do for your mental health.

How can cosplay improve your mental health?

Cosplay involves a lot of great things with many wonderful people. Not only can you learn valuable skills such as sewing, styling and photography, but the social opportunities are endless through cosplay meets and conventions. Keep in mind, the cosplay hobby isn’t perfect and there can be some negative aspects such as spending too much money, some petty drama, haters online. But that’s like with any hobby, and it comes with the territory.

When it comes to cosplay and mental health, in this post I’ll go over 10 ways that cosplay can improve your mental health.

How so? Let’s find out!

1. Social opportunities

My friend helping me with my Marth before a shoot.
I’ve gotten the privilege to meet many awesome people in the Cosplay Community, which does wonders for my own mental health!

Of all the ways that cosplay can improve your mental health, I’d say this is the best and most important way. Cosplay provides many social opportunities to meet great people. And as we all know, good friends and relationships are absolutely vital for our happiness and well-being.

There are many social opportunities involved with cosplay, including:

I myself have made tons of friends in the cosplay community and have had long lasting relationships with cosplayers and photographers.  Meeting new people in the community is a big part of what makes this hobby so enjoyable.

2. Stress relief

Let’s face it; life can be stressful. With adulting and other responsibilities, it can be tough to deal with the things we face day-to-day.

Cosplay is one of those hobbies you look forward to. Because when you put on that costume, you can literally forget about life’s problems for a moment and enjoy yourself. You can be a different character, appreciate the chaos and excitement of a convention, love the effort you put into your costume, and so much more.

Everyone needs a hobby, and cosplay is the perfect hobby to relieve some stress.

3. Increases confidence

I always feel confident in a good cosplay. 🙂

In fact, previous psychological research has shown that wearing a mask can shift people’s experience of themselves and their behavior. For instance, when stutterers in one experiment wore a mask, they stuttered less (Pallczek and Homefield, 1954).

Robin S. Rosenberg and Andrea M. Letamendi – Expressions of Fandom: Findings from a Psychological Survey of Cosplay and
Costume Wear

I know so so many cosplayers who have gotten more confident because of cosplay.

Wearing a costume in itself can make you feel better.

The hobby can challenge you in many different ways. Whether it’s making a complicated cosplay that requires advanced techniques. Or even something as simple as wearing a more revealing cosplay. This hobby can make you feel great about yourself.

I remember my friend a few years ago saying that the Cosplay Community improved her self-esteem I asked her about her post a few weeks ago and here’s what she said:

I did post that the Cosplay Community is a BIG CONFIDENCE booster for me, it still holds to this day.”

Another thing overlooked is that when you see all these great and beautiful cosplayers, it serves as motivation. Whether it’s for the attention, likes or recognition, I have seen so many cosplayers become motivated to become better and improve themselves: Hitting the gym to lose weight or gain muscle. Improving their cosplay skills to make better-looking costumes. Learning how to use makeup or wig styling to look prettier. Even learning social etiquette to make more valuable friends in the community.  All these things are not only confidence boosters, but definitely shows why cosplaying is fun.

4. Promotes creativity

Katara Avatar cosplay
Cosplay is an art form. Cosplayer: totlamadi. Photo taken by jenxnoir.

Cosplay is an art, especially if you’re the one who makes the costume. When you sew and craft your own cosplay, you have the ability to customize it the way you want. Whether it’s adding some beautiful embroidery or modifying the character look, you have total control over how you look. When you cosplay, you’re expressing yourself to others.

When I cosplay Marth from Fire Emblem, I’m expressing how noble of a prince I am! Or when I cosplayed Hyuuga from Kuruko No Baske, even though it was a simple cosplay, I should that I enjoyed basketball. For most cosplayers, we truly find the art of expressing ourselves in costume…a lot of fun!

It’s interesting to note that while you can use cosplay to be someone else, you can also use cosplay to accentuate your own personal traits as well. According to this study, “The fan performer relies on multiple bodies and repertoires that are intimately connected to the fan’s identity and the performed character.” So cosplay can be an artistic expression of your true self.

5. Allows you to be productive

Again, I’m no doctor or expert on psychology, but I feel like staying productive and busy does help with your mood. Having something to do like working on your next cosplay, can be good for you. Being busy with cosplay projects and having something to strive for, can be mentally relieving.

With that said, you don’t want to take this too far. Exerting yourself and pursuing unrealistic cosplay goals can be bad for you. A good example is Con Crunch (link), that would be bad for your mental health. So as long as cosplay makes you productive at a healthy and manageable level, then it will be a positive in your life.

6. Challenge

There is something always exciting about starting a new cosplay project, like timeskip Dorothea from Fire Emblem: Three Houses!
The final product of a beautiful Dorothea cosplay (timeskip version) after months of crafting the costume to full accuracy. Cosplayer: silent_pr1ncess.

As we all know, having goals can give you something to strive for.

Learning how to make your own costumes can be frustrating and at times difficult. But cosplay makes for a fun challenge. And it feels so rewarding when people appreciate your finished costume at a convention by asking for your photo!

Because no matter how you often you cosplay, you’ll likely learn something new each time you dress up.

I mention this a few times on this blog, but there’s a lot of nuance that goes into making a cosplay look really good. You could be wearing a simple cosplay like Lola Bunny, but there’s a lot of stuff you can do to make yourself look better: makeup, using the right poses, using high-quality material, shooting in the right setting, etc. If you’re the observant type like me, then you LOVE to notice these little things when you cosplay.

The last photoshoot I did, I was cosplaying Kaeya from Genshin Impact. One of the pieces of my costume kept falling off and someone told me I should carry bobby pins with me for situations like this. We called this Cosplay Malfunction. For me, trial and error is fun to learn and that’s what makes the cosplaying experience so enjoyable.

7. Learning valuable skills

You can learn a TON of things by being a cosplayer, such as styling hair and wigs!

Where do I start?

You might think that cosplaying is just a fun little hobby gimmick that we do in our spare time. But in fact, you can learn SO much from taking part in this hobby.

Here are some of the many things you can learn from cosplaying:

  • Sewing
  • Crafting
  • Makeup skills
  • Social media engagement
  • Photography and posing
  • Wig styling
  • Managing your money (mostly for conventions)
  • Travel experiences (going to new cosplay conventions)
  • Prop making

Knowing that you possess valuable skills can improve your mental health. When you’re potentially having a bad day and don’t feel so great about yourself, you can look back and see all the things you know how to do. And while it may not change your mood completely, having learnt skills in cosplay can definitely be valuable. So don’t sell yourself short; being a cosplayer allows to learn so many useful things!

8. Inclusivity

One of the things that the Cosplay Community is well-known for: inclusivity.

Yes, there can be some people who are “gatekeepers” that prevent others from taking part. But for the most part, many cosplayers are welcoming and open-minded. Because believe it or not, a lot of people in the community have gone through the same struggles as you have.

Being able to meet people who can relate is very helpful for your mental health. I’ve seen many people in the Cosplay Community reach out to help out others in need and it’s such a great thing to see. There are a lot of helpful people you can count on.

9. Emotional expression

Being a hero of an RPG is emotionally awesome!

In its most basic form, cosplay is a portmanteau of “costume” and “play.” So in a sense, you are always roleplaying while cosplaying!

While I think it’s out-dated to believe you need to actually roleplay with cosplaying, I also think most cosplayers do try to play the part of the character they’re dressing up as. After all, why dress up as a character you absolutely don’t like?

Anyways, one of the best things about cosplaying is you are giving yourself the opportunity to be someone else for one day! Whether it’s the true hero like Link from Zelda. Or a super villain like Azula from Avatar, you can be whoever you want to be in costume.

10. It’s fun!

Cosplayers at Otakuthon
You can’t spell cosplay without “play!”

What better way to improve your mental health than by simply having fun?

We wouldn’t be spending a bunch of our money dressing up as fictional characters if it wasn’t fun. Not much to say here; having fun is great for your mental health!

Summary

To summarize, here are the 10 ways that cosplay and mental health can go together:

  1. Social opportunities
  2. Stress relief
  3. Increases confidence
  4. Promotes creativity
  5. Allows you to be productive
  6. Challenge
  7. Learning valuable skills
  8. Inclusivity
  9. Emotional expression
  10. It’s fun!

And there you have it; 10 things that cosplay and mental health are related (in a positive way)!

Has cosplay improved your mental health? I’d like to know! Leave a comment below and share. 🙂