According to a new study, soldiers who play aggressive video games on a regular basis experience less traumatic nightmares than soldiers who only play occasionally or who play less violent games. Jayne Gackenbach of Grant MacEwan University believes the video games offer an opportunity of empowerment that transfers into their dreams. “Video game play may offer not only a type of training for learning to shoot targets or attend to peripheral cues in a dangerous environment, but also some inoculation to threats in nightmares,” said Gackenbach. “These dreams are the most common element of posttraumatic stress due to trauma.” Previous research has shown that traumatic memories usually remain unprocessed and the individual winds up experiencing the same memories repeatedly, causing significant psychological impairment. By being able to address the fears in a virtual world, soldiers are able to conquer them and thus eliminate the real, physical and psychological symptoms.
For the study, Gackenbach and her colleagues interviewed 98 soldiers and categorized them into two groups: high end gamers who played daily or weekly, and low end gamers who played monthly, yearly or rarely. The high end group also reported playing more aggressive games while the low end group played sporting or fantasy games. The participants were questioned regarding their emotional sensitivity, level of PTSD symptoms and regularity of dreams. The researchers found that the aggressive video games may have lowered the fear for some of the soldiers. “It was found that the high-end gaming group exhibited less threat and war content in their military dreams than the low-end group,” said Gackenbach. “While there is much work to be done, and prescriptive suggestions are premature at this point, these results imply that video game play, especially of the war and battle type, may offer help in terms of practice in ﬁghting the enemy in imaginal realms, in this case virtual, and in terms of the numbing toward violence that is oft cited in the aggression modeling literature on gaming.”
Gackenbach, J., Ellerman, E., & Hall, C. (2011, August 22). Video Game Play As Nightmare Protection: A Preliminary Inquiry With Military Gamers. Dreaming. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0024972
© Copyright 2011 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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