Can Watching a Violent Movie Cause Someone to Develop PTSD?

Highest Standards, Nationally Recognized:

group of people watching something

It is common knowledge that war, physical abuse, sexual abuse, and getting robbed would all suffice as traumatic incidents. Childhood trauma can leave people feeling debilitated for years to come – some even their entire lives. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) affects over 14 million adults in the United States, according to Mental Health America. The National Center for PTSD defines PTSD as a mental health problem that some people develop after experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event. Those who have PTSD often experience nightmares, flashbacks, hyperactivity, intrusive thoughts, and negative emotions/feelings.

Can something as simple as watching a violent show on television trigger someone to have PTSD? The answer is technically, no. Cultivation theory posits that those who watch television often and in substantial amounts tend to adopt the perceptions of what they see on TV. For example, if a person spends many hours a day watching scary movies, they may eventually come to believe that the world is a scary place and may therefore fear leaving their home. The person may show similar symptoms of PTSD, but are not directly experiencing it. The scary content that they viewed on TV may cause them intense emotions which could continue manifesting into a phobia or anxiety disorder.

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, exposure to media, television, movies, or pictures cannot cause PTSD. Symptoms of PTSD are:

  • Re-experiencing the trauma through intrusive distressing recollections of the event, including flashbacks and nightmares
  • Emotional numbness and avoidance of people, places, and activities that are a reminder of the trauma
  • Increased arousal such as difficulty sleeping and concentrating, feeling jumpy, and becoming easily agitated or angered

Reader’s Digest notes that there are many factors that must be present in order to be diagnosed with PTSD: hyperarousal, intrusive thoughts, re-living the experience in your mind, avoiding people and places associated with the trauma, engaging in risky behavior to cope with the symptoms, inability to trust others, hypervigilance, social withdrawal, drinking or using drugs, avoiding normal activities, change in sexual behavior in romantic relationships, difficulty concentrating, paranoia, and more.  

If you have experienced a traumatic event and believe you may have PTSD, call us at Avalon Malibu to get diagnosed and discuss a plan of treatment today. We offer world-renowned, home-like treatment centers to help individuals focus solely on their recovery. We want you to have your life back – you deserve it. Call us today at 844-269-1761.

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