Can video games prevent PTSD?

Jake Hughes
June 05, 2018 - 12:46 pm

(Image Courtesy of Dreamstime)

It’s widely known that many people, including veterans, use video games as an escape, a way to get away from the problems of the day. A good gaming session can relieve tension, calm and relax someone, even if the game isn’t very relaxing. Well, there looks to be a new way to use video games: preventing post-traumatic stress.

An article on the website Stat News mentions how there are “golden hours” between a traumatic event and the onset of PTS. Memory consolidation is an essential function for the human brain. The problem comes when, after a traumatic event, this process goes too far, leading to heightened and intense memories.

Researchers performed an experiment where they went to survivors of car accidents while they were in the hospital. The survivors were asked to relay their memories of the event. Then, half of them were asked to write down what they had done since coming to the hospital, while another group was asked to play the game Tetris. The study showed that the Tetris group was less likely to report mental distress of the event than the loggers. The hypothesis is that by engaging in a visually intensive task, it prevents the brain from forming traumatic memories of the event.

Preventative psychology was a major part of the psychological movement for years. However, in the 60’s, the methods took a back seat to conventional therapy and medication.Thus we find ourselves today focusing on better therapies and stronger pills. Indeed, even the Department of Veterans Affairs focuses almost solely on after-the-fact treatments like prolonged exposure and cognitive processing therapies.

While preventative psychology is making somewhat of a comeback, the article notes that it still has a long way to go. But with a growing number of veterans, and even civilians, being diagnosed with PTS, doctors and researchers are beginning to explore ways fight the cause instead of the symptoms.

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