Video Games: A Unique Mitigator for PTSD

Hillier Ignite is always looking into medical innovation and means to aid our military — t our surprise, video games count towards both. Soldiers suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder have found solace and comfort in games — specifically, games like Tetris. Studies have shown that the simplicity of the visual-spatial actions lessen the amount of flashbacks soldiers experience as one of the main components of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD.

However, other types of video games have also been helpful. As one veteran writes, video games can also be a means to escape during deployment, away from the depression and isolating reality of combat. He used his knowledge of video games to create a gaming donation system for soldiers to check out games and play them during the little down time they managed to eke out. According to Psychology Today, the use of “virtual reality,” which is used in video games as well as pilot training and spinal cord injury rehabilitation. Video games provide a space for “exposure therapy,” which the articles describes:

Exposure therapy is a type of psychological treatment in which the patient confronts a feared thought, image or memory associated with a past traumatic event for the purpose of decreasing the emotional and physical distress associated with the event. The process of habituation-or the decreased response to a stimulus after repeated exposure-is assumed to be the force that decreases this distress. Traditionally, the patient would be asked to confront the distressing thought, image, or memory via their own imagination. This is done within a controlled and therapeutic environment and the emotional fallout is processed between the doctor and patient. With VR technology, the patient is assisted with recall of the event by head-mounted visual displays and headphones. In some cases, odor generating devices can be employed to replicate the smells associated with the original traumatic event.

This year, the Army has contacted gaming companies to create a game for the smartphone, in order to better collect data on soldier’ mental health.

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