Does playing Tetris have the potential to prevent PTSD after experiencing a traumatic event?

Does playing Tetris have the potential to prevent PTSD after experiencing a traumatic event?

Online communities like Reddit have become a popular platform for people to discuss and process tragic events. One piece of advice that users often give each other is to play Tetris as a way to combat traumatic memories. But where does this idea come from, and can playing Tetris really help with conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)?

The answer is yes, but with some caveats. The effectiveness of Tetris in treating PTSD depends on various factors, including the specific symptoms, the timing of the event, and whether other forms of psychological treatment are also received.

Tetris is a deceptively simple computer game that first appeared in 1985. It remains one of the most popular games in history and is available for free online and on various gaming platforms. The game involves a visuospatial task where players manipulate falling block shapes to create lines and clear them from the screen.

PTSD is a condition that can develop after experiencing a traumatic event or series of events. It is characterized by distressing symptoms such as nightmares, flashbacks, a sense of the world being darker and more complicated, hypervigilance, and fear. The brain becomes sensitized to anticipate further trauma.

The idea behind using Tetris to help with PTSD is that the brain has limited capacity to process and recall memories. Researchers at the University of Oxford proposed in 2009 that playing Tetris when the brain is trying to store visual memories would overload its capacity and distract the visual memory circuits. This interruption could reduce the recurrence of unwanted visual memories associated with trauma.

Several studies have been conducted since 2017, showing that playing Tetris can reduce the number of intrusive memories in individuals experiencing birth trauma, vehicle accidents, war refugees, and war veterans. Most studies involved playing Tetris for a short period shortly after a traumatic event, but recent research suggests benefits up to seven years after childbirth-related trauma.

However, it’s important to note that the research on Tetris and PTSD is still evolving. The initial studies were conducted in controlled settings and may not fully apply to real-world situations. More robust research with larger groups of participants is needed to confirm the effects of Tetris, particularly outside of professional guidance.

Other visuospatial games may also be helpful in reducing intrusive memories, although limited studies directly compare Tetris with other games. It’s important to remember that Tetris is not a cure-all for trauma. It can help reduce intrusive memories, but it does not address all the symptoms of PTSD. Professional help is necessary for individuals experiencing PTSD-type symptoms.

In conclusion, playing Tetris shortly after a traumatic event or when recalling a previous traumatic experience may help reduce intrusive memories. However, more research is needed to fully understand its effectiveness, and it should be used as part of a comprehensive treatment strategy under professional guidance.