People involved in car crashes often describe various symptoms consistent with post-traumatic stress disorder, ranging from mild to severe. One such symptom is recurrent flashbacks of the incident itself, which can interrupt daily activities and disrupt sleep, aggravating the many other symptoms typically suffered. Imagine having a painful injury, trying to continue your typical busy life, caring and providing for your family, and then not even being able to focus or get a decent night’s sleep, because of flashbacks and anxiety from an accident that wasn’t your fault. Life is tough enough without these unexpected, and avoidable, incidents; add a complication like this that affects you each and every day, and a tough task becomes even more difficult.
But a recent study has revealed an unlikely source of relief for some victims of PTSD and similar symptoms: Tetris. The game made popular by Nintendo in the late ‘80s and making a recent comeback has been credited by this study as alleviating, to some extent, the flashbacks suffered by the average car crash victim.
Researchers from the Swedish Karolinska Institute have opined that playing Tetris after witnessing or being part of something one considers traumatic can “reprogram” that person’s brain to an extent that seems to impede flashbacks. Specifically, the study found that those who had been in a crash who played Tetris for 20 minutes after reporting the incident to researches had fewer recurrent memories of that crash over the next week versus the control group. The “gameplayer victims” had been asked to recall their memories of the crash before playing Tetris, whereas the control group were directed to spend an equal amount of time in the emergency room detailing their memories of the crash in writing.
If only the other symptoms suffered by car crash victims, from the physical injuries, to the emotional impact, and the myriad other ways these issues can turn one’s life around, were so easily remedied. I can already hear unsympathetic insurance adjusters barking to me that my clients should have simply bought Tetris on their phones to solve their post-traumatic stress and saved their company some money versus spending the money on co-pays for treatment with a doctor.
The full study, for those interested in the details, can be found at http://www.nature.com/mp/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/mp201723a.html.