A GoodTherapy.org News Summary
It’s a common condition portrayed in films and thrown around as a buzzword in popular media, but for those who suffer its symptoms, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD is a serious ailment that can reach far beyond mood-altering periods to become a substantial negative element of day to day functioning. While a majority of cases are diagnosed in combat veterans and those who have been subjected to the hardship of war, roughly eight percent of Americans are afflicted by PTSD as a result of some traumatic event during the course of civilian life.
So for the over twenty five million Americans affected by PTSD, a recent study from the University of Oxford may transcend its novelty to present a viable and easy to perform option for easing symptoms. A common feature of the disorder is the experience of flashbacks; detailed to varying degrees, these visual interruptions pull traumatic events from the memory and subject the sufferer to lifelike reenactments of a moment or action. The Oxford research team has found that the specific way in which these flashbacks use the brain’s processing is visual-spatial, and that this processing can be diverted to a new and different task, preventing the offending scenes from emerging.
Researchers showed a test group a short video sequence depicting actual human death and trauma, an accepted PTSD analog, and observed half the group play a game of Tetris for ten minutes a half hour after the video showing, while the other half sat quietly without any activity. Progress was monitored via subject diaries for a week, and those who engaged in the Tetris games reported significantly less recall and flashbacks of the film than did the control group subjects who did not participate. By flooding the visual-spatial processing of the brain during critical periods following trauma, we may be able to use tools like Tetris to prevent debilitating disorders (and have a little fun at the same time!).
© Copyright 2009 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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