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Can Watching Violent/scary Movies Cause Ptsd?

Discussion in 'News, Politics & Debates' started by intothelight, Jun 14, 2011.

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  1. intothelight

    intothelight Just Being Me

    Today, the Dr. Phil show had a guest that suffered from not being able to feel safe in her house, and she felt this was due to watching the movie "Psycho". Here was Dr. Phil's response:

    I have a feeling that PTSD might be the new "designer" diagnosis. Maybe we can all find that "movie" that caused this and sue the filmmaker???
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  3. amethist

    amethist The Mystic Duck

    What a load of twaddle.

    Can I sue the makers of Dr Who, for giving me nightmares and still to this day, scaring the cr#p out of me with the Cyber men.

    Can I heck as like, because I have not got PTSD from watching years of Dr Who, avoiding the Cyber men episodes like the plague. I just get the jitters and run away, avoidance yes, PTSD not a chance.
  4. Simply Simon

    Simply Simon Fathom the Power

    I can't believe he said something like that. I can't believe someone said that. Jeeze. I just can't comprehend it. What the hell is unclear about witnessing or being directly influenced by real or imagined fatal threats? I would like to see Dr. Phil and have a talk with him about what you get PTSD from. It is clear to me that people who think PTSD can be gotten in such an indirect way have never experienced trauma of any kind, let alone developed any kind of disorder from it.

    Okay. So here's fear one. PTSD will become a designer diagnosis and get diagnosed wildly. PTSD for everything. Storm? PTSD. Bad day? PTSD. Kardashian encounter? PTSD (I may be able to sympathize with that last one).

    Second fear, probably scarier--people with actual illnesses will be triggered by something like this, a movie, go to a doctor, and be treated for the wrong thing. What if I was abused, saw a movie that closely mirrored my Abuse, and then was diagnosed PTSD for the movie, never uncovering my trauma.

    At least movie PTSD would have a pretty simple Cure. Watch the movie. Again and again. Fin. Case closed. PTSD is Curable after all! NOT.

  5. Cheshire

    Cheshire Seeker and Dreamer

    That's so ridiculous. Talk about diminishing the reality of PTSD. Ugh.
  6. anthony

    anthony Master of none!

    He mentioned symptoms off... that is not saying they have PTSD. PTSD already has explicit aspects where it cannot be diagnosed, ie. seen on TV, is considered normal part of life, etc. Symptoms of something and something, two different things.

    But yes... I see the impact someone like Dr Phil could have by really making such statements in the first place, because people will start running around trying to say they have PTSD because they watched something scary on TV... but no diagnostician could actually do that, as the diagnosis explicitly rules that out.
  7. intothelight

    intothelight Just Being Me

    Yes, it is correct that Dr. Phil said "like" and that is why I quoted the transcript. But I wonder how many viewers heard the "like"?

    Even though we would like to believe that a diagnostician would not diagnose someone with PTSD based up something as trivial as a scary movies; however, when there are potential $$$$ involved, there is always the potential for abuse. I can see someone taking the criteria of "witnessing an event or events that involved actual or threatened death or serious injury, or a threat to the physical integrity of self or others." and really stretching it.

    Objectivity and professionalism are relative.
  8. anni

    anni Bucephalus ( an old war horse )
    Premium Member

    Yes, and if one was in 'TV' mode, you heard 'It's curable in 12 sessions'. Most are in TV mode with this stuff. The poor woman really was kind of a mess, but to have brought PTSD into the conversation at all, without offering any other possible diagnosis was sort of iffy on his part, I thought. I like Dr. Phil, don't get me wrong- he does amazing amounts of good, deals with abusers awfully well for instance, and tolerates your basic B.S. not at all. This woman was driving her husband insane with fears, had watched scary movies- that the PTSD had been brought into the conversation at all is going to encourage neurotics, I'm afraid, that's all. The dam dog is one, when I turn on the faucet and he thinks he's getting a bath. It doesn't take much.
  9. anthony

    anthony Master of none!

    They already have... by diagnosing people in relationship breakups with PTSD, general injuries, etc...

    These are the very people who forced the APA to change the DSM V criterion to be so narrow and specific to the type of event.
  10. Kim

    Kim Well-Known Member

    Wow. I'm speechless and that's probably a good thing.
    Whitneys story, gizmo, Girl3 and 2 others like this.
  11. H89

    H89 New Member

    I can answer this question with a YES! The movies and TV shows don't even have to be scary to cause the PTSD.

    Since I was 6 years old(I'm now 22) I've suffered from PTSD and severe phobias. To see you all make fun of this situation pisses me off a great deal. I kept my secret for 13 years knowing I would encounter to put it nicely "misinformed people" like all of you. I'm terrified of certain movies, TV shows, and actors. I can't even talk about what I saw in the TV and movie scenes without literally bursting into tears, having flashbacks, and severe panic attacks. I can't say the names of the actors or the name of the TV shows and movies without having the same thing happen. Everytime I see one of the actors I'm afraid of I start flashing back to a random scene I saw them in, I cry, I sweat, my heart races, I feel pure terror. Christmas is the worst time of the year for me because of a certain TV episode I saw, and the song that was used in that episode. Whenever I hear that song or a song related to the other actors I'm phobic of I have a full blown flashback. It's NOT a laughing matter!

    I have a few choice words for the third poster .First off, I have been through "real trauma" as you worded it. I was beaten and verbally abused as a child by my mother and grandmother. I was also verbally abused throughout my entire school career. Being told things like "you're so ugly you should go kill yourself" on a DAILY basis.

    The second HUGE problem I have with your post is you stating that getting PTSD from a movie would be easy to fix? EASY?!!! I've watched the movies and TV shows with the actors I'm phobic of over and over trying to get over my phobias. All that ever did was make my flashbacks etc, WORSE. I was diagnosed in 2009(starting seeing him in 2008) by a psychologist with PTSD, and Specific phobias. I've been on Social Security disability since that same year. I suppose you're going to call the SS doctor who upheld my diagnosis and approved my case an idiot for agreeing with my psychologist? My psychologist tried CBT, Exposure therapy, and guided imagery to treat me. NONE of those worked. I'm currently taking 2mg of Xanax daily and 40mg of prozac daily those don't help much either.

    My life is a living hell. I suffer from intrusive thoughts every couple of hours, and up to 20 flashbacks per DAY! I would love to be normal. Not some freak of nature that most of my own family and all of you make someone like me out to be. As for the OP I don't blame the film and tv makers. Do I wish they had never made the shows and movies? OF COURSE. Am I going to sue them because I'm fuc*ed up for the rest of my life? NO, I made the idiotic decision to keep watching thinking I could fix myself.

    Those of us with PTSD no matter what the cause should be treated like human beings, not circus side show freaks.
    Whitneys story and gizmo like this.
  12. intothelight

    intothelight Just Being Me

    Hi H89,

    No one here would minimize the effect that media has on triggering PTSD. It was being questioned as the primary cause.

    As you stated:

    Child abuse is a source of PTSD. Life triggers symptoms and triggers are as individual as the person and their trauma.
    No one was intentionally poking fun at a PTSD sufferer. It is the lack of factual information about PTSD that started this post. Take your time and read, and I think you will find many who are triggered by media. My own television set sat in a closet for a year, and now it gets dusted more that it is used.

  13. H89

    H89 New Member

    intothelight, thanks for your post. Most people I've explained my condition to have called me an outright liar. But I assure you that PTSD can be triggered by media(TV shows, movies, etc). At first my psychologist thought that I had a case of transference, that me being afraid of certain actors was because I couldn't deal with my abuse. He began to question that theory though. The first time I laid eyes on all 8 of the actors I'm afraid of I felt INSTANT terror. The first actress is from a very well known old children's movie. In her case he believes it might have been her facial makeup(the coloring of it) that freaked me out. That and the fact that she looked just like my great grandmother(who never abused me BTW). He doesn't have a clue why I'm phobic of the other 7 actors though. My great grandmother is the 9th person I have a phobia of. Everytime I see a picture of her(she's now deceased) I have the same panic reaction. I was terrified of the way she looked when she was alive as well. I had panic attacks anytime I was near her. My case is so unusual my pschologist has wondered if I should get neuroimaging(FMRI) to see what's going on in my brain when I'm exposed to the people I'm phobic of.
    Whitneys story and gizmo like this.
  14. wife of

    wife of I'm a VIP

    Can I just ask why you watched these movies?

    Was it from self choice or did someone make you watch?

    I would of presumed that having been terrified by one film of such a genre then most people would not watch more?

    I would myself consider that if someone persisted in viewing things that terrified them by choice as opposed to having an experiance thrust upon them then any resuting "trauma" would therefore be self inflicted,would this then be more a case of self harm in some way?

    Not knocking your distress,just curious and have a questioning mind.
    Whitneys story, safenow and gizmo like this.
  15. john1963

    john1963 Member

    Thanks Dr. Phill:

    I feel much better now knowing all my problems come from Hollywood.

    For me it was the flying monkeys on the Wizzard of Oz, and than i will never forget Jaws. I was 10 years old and my sister took me with her on a date. My Mom though having me along would make it safe for my sister.

    <Font edited by Amethist>
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  16. H89

    H89 New Member

    First it isn't just one genre. The genres of the TV shows and movies that bother me are: drama, sci fi, fantasy, and comedy. Nobody forced me to watch. The first movie that upset me that I saw(when I was 6) I was sat down and the TV was turned on to it. But I don't consider that forced. I kept watching it the first time because my mother had always told me that if something scared me I should be a big girl and stay around it until I'm not scared anymore. So that's what I did. As for the other TV shows(except one) I never watched them unless my mother had them on. With those I could have left the room, but I had the same attitude about the shows as I did with the movie I had seen. My mother took me to another movie that triggered me when I was 9, but I already was scared of the people that were in it. As for the last TV show, at first I only watched it when my mother had it on. But by the time I was older(11) I had learned through doing internet research what exposure therapy was. I had been researching fear trying to figure out what was wrong with me. So when my mom had to work and she had me tape "The Show" as I call it. I watched it, trying to get myself over my fear. I watched "The Show" new and repeats until it went off the air trying to make myself immune to the Anxiety. Of course it didn't work. I had the same instant fear reaction happen to me with an actor in 2005, by then I knew my attempts at doing exposure therapy on myself were not working so I avoided her at all costs. Before I got help in 2008,(I was hugely triggered that year and I couldn't take it anymore) I had watched the first movie that upset me two more times(once in 1999,once in 2003) in a last ditch attempt to fix myself. When I did finally get help my psychologist tried exposure therapy on me, done the correct way. It still didn't work. I didn't know I was "hurting" myself as you put it. Before I knew what exposure therapy was I knew I wasn't normal and thought maybe if I stuck it out I wouldn't be afraid anymore.
    Whitneys story and gizmo like this.
  17. itsKismet

    itsKismet I'm a VIP
    Premium Member

    H89, I do believe you are confusing the SOURCE of your PTSD with your TRIGGER.

    Your source is abuse, your trigger is the media. The media did NOT cause your PTSD.

    But in response to the OP, I no longer listen to the likes of Dr Phil, Dr Oz, etc... The latest being Oz's fear mongering over NATURALLY OCCURING arsenic in apple juice... Lmao.
  18. H89

    H89 New Member

    I'm really not going to argue with you on this. My abuse has nothing to do with my PTSD. The media I was exposed to DID cause my flashbacks, intrusive thoughts, startle reflex, nightmares, and panic attacks. This has been verified by my psychologist and the social security doctor.
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  19. amethist

    amethist The Mystic Duck

    HI H89

    Watching a TV program, what ever it is, cannot and will not cause anyone to be diagnosed with PTSD. They may and do bring the memories of your initial Trauma, this is the trigger, not a cause.

    A TV program or film cannot put you in a physical position to be in fear of loosing your life.

    Your initial Trauma, as from reading your posts so far, for you this must have been abuse as a child.

    Maybe if you read the following link, you may just begin to understand what we are all trying to tell you, and that your mum forcing you to watch the show, was actually a form of abuse. So the show itself, was not the cause, but the abuse could have been, as you do not force a young child to watch something that is obviously too scary for their age. Hence the watershed in the UK today, and the warnings on films.

  20. Lucycat

    Lucycat "Wisdom begins in wonder." ~ Socrates ~
    Premium Member

    This is a very interesting debate. IMHO the answer is in the name; Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I don't see how watching TV can be classified as trauma, however much you don't like or are upset by the program. I agree with above suggestions about media being a trigger to preexisting trauma issues.

    H89 I note you say;
    and severe phobias. This does not make the phobias a part of the PTSD diagnosis. Of course none of us here is trying to belittle your situation, or question the diagnosis of your professionals. Just trying to make sense of it.

    It is a Shame that Dr Phil chose to mention PTSD, even though he does only say 'some qualities of'. Its a bit like saying if I cough and sneeze I have 'some qualities of TB', rather than the more likely 'some qualities of a common cold'. Not inaccurate but somewhat misleading.
  21. woundedmind

    woundedmind Member

    Actually there are different kinds of trauma. Watching something as a child that is not true but scary and causes nightmares is a trauma as real to a child as any other. Until a certain stage of development children can't distinguish between reality and fantasy.

    As for being a witness rather than a direct experiencer of a traumatic incident, it is even accepted by the U S Department of Veteran's Affairs that witnessing your friend's head get blown off is a traumatic enough incident to witness to cause PTSD. Strangely enough, you don't have to experience your own head being blown off, as you would be dead. Close proximity certainly heightens fear for most, however a sensitive person doesn't have to have the same proximity to experience a similar level of traumatization or shock. Therefore, witnessing something that causes you nightmares is a traumatic event. It may not cause you fullblown PTSD. Living in a dangerous neighborhood for a significant time can cause PTSD if you hear gunshots nearby frequently and fear that at any moment you could be shot or the people that care for you or you rely upon could be shot.

    As for suing Hollywood, there is a rating system in place for content. If you are a very sensitive person, you better stick to G-rated fare otherwise you are assuming the risk. Imagine watching a snuff film. That could traumatic. The thing that makes it traumatic is it the visuals or the knowledge its real? The visuals of violent movies can be hyper-realistic. People get numbed to the level of violence and gore in movies. Believe it or not that numbing is a form of PTSD. However it is not problematic for most people except those who seek something that will continue to stimulate them beyond their current "jadedness" It's the same numbness to the horrors of War and killing. It's why people who play extremely violent games can murder other human beings and real think nothing of it (see the various murders by teens within the last 10 years that involved groups). Depersonalization is a very real symptom and can be an entire disorder in itself. As for movies, they can be very real such as "Se7en." When it came out in theaters, many found it quite disturbing to the point that they got sick or had to leave the theater before the movie was over. The scariest thing is that in reality things like this are done in reality. There really are people who kill innocents for pleasure, that enjoy causing pain to others and do so because they can get away with it. So its not so divorced from reality.
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  22. woundedmind

    woundedmind Member

    Really the difference between the PTSD-like symptoms and PTSD is more of duration rather than quality. So its less of a difference than the difference between TB and a common cold. You don't have to have preexisting trauma to experience trauma as a witness. People experienced trauma and were diagnosed with PTSD from watching two airplanes slam into a building over and over again over the period of one day on television.
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  23. H89

    H89 New Member

    *Claps* Thank you! Someone finally gets what I'm saying, well sort of. I knew perfectly well what I was seeing wasn't real. That's not the issue. But me stupidly watching the TV and movies over and over trying to get myself over my phobias did do me damage that will last for the rest of my life. Let me make this 100% clear: I AM PHOBIC OF THE ACTORS PHYSICAL FACIAL APPEARANCES! I am also phobic of my great grandmother's physical facial appearance.
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  24. sea

    sea I'm a VIP

    I can't even begin, here. Just, three points:

    1. Phobia is not equal to PTSD. My wife has entomophobia. That is not the same thing as having a post-traumatic stress reaction to insects or bugs. She has never had a primary traumatic experience with bugs. (And please keep in mind, that phobias can appear even with a primary occurrence, but a phobia is once again separate from PTSD). But, every single time she sees one (from a fruit fly to a bumblebee) she goes into what everybody here has experienced when they become triggered. Panicked, freaked out. When the bug leaves, or is killed, she will remain freaked out and upset for about an hour or so until she is sure it is gone. And yes, this does interfere with her life. But. She does not have PTSD. She has a phobia. A phobia is an irrational fear reaction to benign stimuli. H89 has had a phobia of actors/actresses since they were 6. They have never had a traumatic experience with those actors or actresses. They seem to have the same reaction in regards to common facial features. This is perfectly valid. But it is not PTSD.

    2. Desensitization is not equal to PTSD. Desensitization is natural. Exposure therapy is a form of desensitization. Desensitization is not a symptom of PTSD. Desensitization has nothing to do with PTSD. Everybody experiences desensitization. It is a pre-programmed neurological normality. Desensitization is different than numbing in that numbing is a direct uncontrolled response to something perceived as harmful by the brain. Desensitization does not have to involve the element of harm, only happens with specific things, and occurs by way of slowly reducing the impact of the images/sounds/words/things/etc that you see over being slowly exposed to them again and again. Desensitization is not global. You cannot desensitize to everything. You can numb to everything.

    3. And finally, I feel like I need to remind that video games, movies, television, the news, newspapers, books, comics, art, paintings, etc are not equal to real life. A person does not know what it was like to have been there on Sept 11 just because they watched it on the television. A person does not know what it is like to have experienced war just because they play a war videogame. A person does not know what it is like to see blood and gore just because they saw it in a painting. Insinuating that it is similar is a cognitive dissonance of the highest degree. That is why snuff films will produce a different response than a horror movie. That is why war produces a different result than a war video-game.

    I am seriously confounded with all of this post. I find it ridiculous. Watching someone get shot on a television show, on the news, hearing about it - it is different than it is watching it in real life. Hearing it in real life. Experiencing that experience. It is just a completely separate thing. Watching it on a movie is like the difference between a drawing of a stick person on a piece of paper, versus a real 3D Human being. Do I find the phobia ridiculous? No. Do I find H89 ridiculous? No. Phobias are unrelated to trauma. They can be a result of trauma, but many phobias are irrational. I believe there are irrational phobias, I believe some people are more easily traumatized than others, but, the suggestion that movies and television are a form of primary trauma is completely devastatingly lost on me.

    By the very nature of the DSM criteria for PTSD, watching a movie or a television show does not in any way fit with the first and most important criterion, meaning that one has to have experienced a threat to one's self. Television is not threatening. Not even to a child. On a very basic level, a child understands that what is seen on television is not reality. They may have nightmares, get upset, fear the monsters in their closet, etc. But, when their cognitive abilities develop enough for them to comprehend reality, that fear dissipates. They understand it isn't real. It isn't traumatizing. (I will concede that watching reports or photographs of real events can be more traumatizing and triggering than any other media, but again, not sufficient to cause PTSD).

    That is why a fear of television is irrational, therefore classified as an irrational phobia. I have a friend who states she was triggered and traumatized by viewing a movie that closely mirrored her trauma in real life. But, once again, that real life trauma existed before she watched the movie that triggered her. Had it not existed, I sincerely doubt that the movie would have impacted her at all as an adult, unless she developed an irrational phobia toward it.

    The first criterion for PTSD reads as follows (taken from Wikipedia once again):

    This must have involved both (a) loss of "physical integrity", or risk of serious injury or death, to self or others, and (b) a response to the event that involved intense fear, horror or helplessness (or in children, the response must involve disorganized or agitated behavior). (The DSM-IV-TR criterion differs substantially from the previous DSM-III-R stressor criterion, which specified the traumatic event should be of a type that would cause "significant symptoms of distress in almost anyone," and that the event was "outside the range of usual human experience.")

    I don't mean to attack anyone in any way. Obviously I'm a bit pissed. I just find all of this completely unreal. Maybe that is just me being triggered, I don't know. It comes off as very invalidating, that is all I have to say.
  25. anthony

    anthony Master of none!

    There is a difference between symptoms being 'triggered' by media vs. media giving you PTSD.

    The first is factual, the second is nonsense. People should not try and confuse the two... as IntoTheLight answered... trigger is not cause, the prior abuse was the cause of PTSD, not the media act that is triggering the symptoms.

    You cannot GET PTSD from media, you can only GET PTSD from an actual traumatic event that you personally experienced in real life via the defined diagnostic methods.

    The DSM V has even gone as far to ensure people do not confuse this with second hand information, ie. confused with grief vs. experienced.
  26. H89

    H89 New Member

    This has nothing to do with the current debate or my situation. I just wanted to set those members on here straight who were saying that a person themselves HAD to go through trauma. According to the APA themselves you can get PTSD from quote "Learning that the event(s) occurred to a close relative or close friend; in such cases, the actual or threatened death must have been violent or accidental" I was going to post a link but it says I don't have enough posts to do that. I'm going to copy and paste the actual information. I hope that's not against the TOU. I got this from the DSM V website.

    Posttraumatic Stress Disorder *

    A. The person was exposed to one or more of the following event(s): death or threatened death, actual or threatened serious injury, or actual or threatened sexual violation, in one or more of the following ways: **
    1. Experiencing the event(s) him/herself
    2. Witnessing, in person, the event(s) as they occurred to others
    3. Learning that the event(s) occurred to a close relative or close friend; in such cases, the actual or threatened death must have been violent or accidental
    4. Experiencing repeated or extreme exposure to aversive details of the event(s) (e.g., first responders collecting body parts; police officers repeatedly exposed to details of child abuse); this does not apply to exposure through electronic media, television, movies, or pictures, unless this exposure is work related.
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