Dear Dr. Archer,
I have a friend who recently told me he thinks he's suffering from PTSD. He told me it was because of a character in a video game --specifically how the character was treated in the game, how the gaming community treated her and how he perceives they feel about her.
In his initial email, he proceeded to tell me all this information about this heroine, which I thought was odd. Then he got to the point where he asked me if he had convinced me to love her as he did. Personally, I don't understand what it matters. He said the character was similar to him, in the way she acts out her feelings.
He asked me to be honest whether or not I loved or hated this character, and told me lying would be discovered by him, so I was honest. I told him I didn't care one way or the other about her since she's fictional. I also told him I thought he should seek professional help. Well, that was not even close to what he wanted to hear.
Now he thinks, even though I don't care about her, then obviously I must hate her. He also wonders if I'm possibly someone from a website that he's argued with over this character. And he thinks I don't care about him or what he's going through. Truth be known, I don't understand his situation at all.
Aside from suggesting he seek professional help, what can I do for him?
Your friend has clearly merged fantasy with reality in terms of this game. Unfortunately, he's not the only one. Children as young as 4, to adults over 40 have developed serious issues like depression, addiction and yes, aggression because of video games.
Given the nature of some of these games, they have warning labels claiming "real life violence" and parental stickers claiming the game is not suitable for children under 12. BUT, these games are the most popular games!
Studies have shown that aggression from video games is much more likely to translate into real-life than aggression from movies or television because of the interactive nature of a game.
For some, these games are not just games. They're life, and they also take on a life of their own and become stressful, not fun and relaxing as they were intended.
The thing about your friend, Yumei, is that you cannot make him change. He will not do anything about this problem unless/until he sees it as a problem. Until then he will play the game and become upset with anyone who doesn’t "get it”.
That being said, here are a couple of things to suggest. First have him check out the site, How to Quit Playing Video Games FOREVER. Next, try to get him out and about with you and others. A party, football game, movie, walk, bike ride -- anything to limit his time playing the game.
Your friend, Yumei, does not need a psychiatrist UNLESS he starts to break with reality and develop hallucinations and/or delusions. He needs to control his actions and not spend so much time playing this game.
If he can do that, he will gradually come out of his funk. Let him know exactly what you think of his reaction to your response, and try to talk him into cutting down by doing things with you. The rest is up to him. Good luck!