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Fighting Nightmares and PTSD with Video Games

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posted on May, 27 2010 @ 04:21 AM

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

I found this article rather interesting and decided to post it. Apparently there seems to be some hope for sufferers of PTSD and chronic nightmares through a sort of video game therapy.

The hypothesis is that through practice in a virtual world, one can come to have better control over the events in the dream world. The article goes on to state that this sort of therapy could be productive in the treatment of people suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder:

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.

Fascinating stuff. I sincerely hope this will provide some relief for those suffering from PTSD and sleep disturbances.


posted on May, 27 2010 @ 07:27 AM
Fighting nightmares about violence with conscious ''digital'' violence.. Its fighting fire with fire AND it appears to be working? I definitely agree, thats fascinating. Great find!

I wonder how that type of therapy was brought up... Some psychologists boy is raging on Call of Duty and he thinks, ''Wow, what a douche! WAIT A MINUTE.... maybe I can get REAL veterans to rage on this and get over stress in RL (lol)''

posted on May, 27 2010 @ 06:57 PM
reply to post by Tanulis

Well, I'm not a psychiatrist by any stretch of the imagination, but it sounds a little like immersion therapy :

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.

I'm guessing the scientist referred to in the article took the concept of immersion therapy and just expanded on it a bit.

But like I said, I'm no expert in the field, so that's just a guess. I just thought it was rather cool to find that video games could be used in the treatment of debilitating psychological problems.

Thanks to everyone for the replies, stars and flags.


posted on May, 27 2010 @ 07:02 PM
As a vet and an avid gamer I'm not sure I support this theory/method.

I don't suffer from your classic PTSD as I'm a very mentally capable and steady individual.

The nightmares on the other hand, yes, on occasion.

I've always enjoyed video games and find them to be much more entertaining than anything that comes on the TV. They have not helped whatsoever with the few nightmares I get a week involving combat, fear and the other numerous horrible things I must re-experience in the realm of sleep.

Just my .02

interesting article none-the-less, thanks for the post.

posted on May, 27 2010 @ 07:16 PM
reply to post by Shark VA84

Sorry to hear about your PTSD and I hope you make a full and complete recovery as soon a possible.

I think the theory is that eventually simulator-style games, similar to the virtual reality simulators mentioned in the article as having been successfully used in treatment, could be developed and used to make further advances in treatment.

It would make sense that if a virtual reality simulator helps somewhat, then a fully interactive gaming-type virtual environment would be even more beneficial.

But as the article states, it's all still hypothetical at the moment. Hopefully, we'll see some good come from line of study.

Thank you for the reply, your first-hand perspective and your service to the country.


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