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Gackenbach conducted a 2008 study with 35 males and 63 females, and used independent assessments that coded threat levels in after-dream reports. She found that gamers experienced less or even reversed threat simulation (in which the dreamer became the threatening presence), with fewer aggression dreams overall.
In other words, a scary nightmare scenario turned into something "fun" for a gamer.
"What happens with gamers is that something inexplicable happens," Gackenbach explained. "They don't run away, they turn and fight back. They're more aggressive than the norms."
Levels of aggression in gamer dreams also included hyper-violence not unlike that of an R-rated movie, as opposed to a non-gamer PG-13 dream.
"If you look at the actual overall amount of aggression, gamers have less aggression in dreams," Gackenbach said. "But when they're aggressive, oh boy, they go off the top." source
Psychologists consider nightmares as one of the symptoms of PTSD, and studies have shown incredibly high rates of nightmares ranging from 71 to 96 percent among PTSD patients. By contrast, just 3 to 5 percent of civilians reported the same levels of nightmares.
Virtual reality simulators have already been used to help PTSD patients gradually adjust to the threatening situations that plague their waking and sleeping thoughts. If Gackenbach's hunch is correct, perhaps video games could also help relieve the need for nightmares.
Immersion therapy is a psychological technique which allows a patient to overcome fears (phobias).
First a fear-hierarchy is created: the patient is asked a series of questions to determine the level of discomfort the fear causes in various conditions. Can the patient talk about the object of his/her fear, can the patient tolerate a picture of it or watch a movie which has the object of his/hear fear, can he/she be in the same room with the object of his/her fear, and/or can he/she be in physical contact with it?
Once these questions have been ordered beginning with least discomfort to most discomfort, the patient is taught a relaxation exercise. Such an exercise might be tensing all the muscles in his/her body then relaxing them and saying "relax", and then repeating this process until the patient is calm.
Next, the patient is exposed to the object of his/her fear in a condition with which he/she is most comfortable - such as merely talking about the object of his/her fear. Then, while in such an environment, the patient performs the relaxation exercise until she or he is comfortable at that level.
After that, the patient moves up the hierarchy to the next condition, such as a picture or movie of the object of fear, and then to the next level in the hierarchy and so on until the patient is able to cope with the fear directly.
Although it may take several sessions to achieve a resolution, the technique is regarded as successful.