The generation that began the fight against terrorism after September 11, 2001 is the first generation of American service members who went to war after growing up playing video games. The games they played weren’t as innocuous as Pac Man or Space Invaders. The games they played were the ones that depicted realistic first-person scenarios of combat. And the youngest members of America’s fighting forces have only had more and more access to video game series such as Medal of Honor, Call of Duty, SOCOM: U.S. Navy SEALs, Splinter Cell, etc. Video games, especially games depicting war, have become part of American culture.
One would think that such exposure to violence, even fictional simulated violence, would desensitize us to the gore and harmful effects that war has on the human brain. But almost the opposite has happened. PTSD has become the most prevalent diagnosis from the wars in Iraq in Afghanistan.
According to Emory University consultant Barbara Rothbaum PhD, PTSD was originally recognized as an official diagnosis in 1980 as a result of symptoms observed from Veterans who served in the Vietnam War. Before then, PTSD wasn’t recognized as an illness. Instead, Veterans who had what we recognized today as PTSD were said to have “shell shock,” “battle fatigue,” or were experiencing “combat stress reaction.” The Veterans from previous generations who suffered from PTSD widelywent untreated, and many were denied the benefits that they were entitled to because of disciplinary actions resulting from behaviors caused by PTSD.
Today, institutions such as Emory University are using PTSD data gathered from before PTSD was even recognized as a diagnosis. They are treating afflicted Veterans with regiments that combine helpful medications and Virtual Reality Exposure (VRE) therapy.
The VRE therapy is a form of cognitive behavior therapy. The exposure to simulated combat scenarios through virtual reality and video games helps sufferers confront the memory of the events that triggered their PTSD, and they repeatedly go over the scenario until the Veterans feel more comfortable with the memory. This results in a sense of mastery over their emotions and reactions to the memory.
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Military Connection: Video Games Help Treat PTSD: By Debbie Gregory