Term of Award

Spring 2014

Degree Name

Doctor of Psychology in Clinical Psychology (Psy.D.)

Document Type and Release Option

Dissertation (open access)


Department of Psychology

Committee Chair

C. Thresa Yancey, Ph.D.

Committee Member 1

Jeff Klibert, Ph.D.

Committee Member 2

Janice Steirn, Ph.D.


Much of the research involving detrimental effects of violent video games has focused primarily on aggression and desensitization of pain. To date there is no known research that examines whether video games can cause traumatic symptoms. However, there is research that suggests horror movies cause traumatic symptoms (Carleton et al., 2011). Given that video games can immerse people far more than a movie in terms of active participation, one could infer that traumatic symptoms would be even greater when playing a violent video game. The purpose of the current study was to determine whether violent video games could elicit symptoms related to distress and trauma (e.g., feelings of involvement and presence, anxiety, aggression, stress, and peritraumatic dissociation) and to examine whether there were gender differences in the reported levels of symptoms. One hundred and twenty participants played either a violent or nonviolent video game and completed self-report measures of distress and trauma. Results were inconsistent with previous research suggesting that violent video games increase symptoms of distress and trauma in males. However, results do indicate that females have an increase in state anxiety, aggressive affect, acute stress and peritraumatic dissociation when playing violent video games. Methodological, theoretical, and practical implications are explored.