Can You Get PTSD From A Virtual Experience?

Virtual environments almost certainly induce genuine anxiety, says Grainne Kirwan, a psychologist who specializes in cybercrime at the Dún Laoghaire Institute of Art, Design, and Technology in Ireland. For example, your physiological and emotional responses to entering a dark alley in a video game may be comparable to those you’d have in a similar real-life situation.
"But would it be to the extent of initiating post-traumatic stress disorder? That hasn’t been demonstrated," Kirwan says. There have been scattered accounts of people victimized in role-playing games such as Second Life or World of Warcraft and suffering in the aftermath. But no large-scale academic study has ever been written up, Kirwan says.
And even if a player were to have a disturbing experience, he could avoid compounding the stress by steering clear of that game, or online games altogether, in the future. "I think that somebody would have to be psychologically compromised to begin with to mistake the events that go on in the virtual world for real events," says Skip Rizzo, a psychiatrist at the University of Southern California.
That doesn’t mean virtual experiences aren’t powerful, though. In fact, Rizzo uses virtual-reality (VR) environments to help patients with PTSD relive controlled versions of traumatic events in order to move past them.