Screen Trauma: Visual Media and Post-traumatic Stress Disorder

Amit Pinchevski*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


Recent studies in psychiatry reveal an acceptance of trauma through the media. Traditionally restricted to immediate experience, Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is now expanding to include mediated experience. How did this development come about? How does mediated trauma manifest itself? What are its consequences? This essay addresses these questions through three cases: (1) ‘trauma film paradigm’, an early 1960s research program that employed films to simulate traumatic effects; (2) the psychiatric study into the clinical effects of watching catastrophic events on television, culminating with the September 11 attacks; (3) reports on drone operators who exhibit PTSD symptoms after flying combat missions away from the war zone. The recognition of mediated trauma marks a qualitative change in the understanding of media effects, rendering the impact literal and the consequences clinical. What informs recent speculations about the possibility of trauma through media is a conceptual link between visual media and contemporary conceptions of trauma.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)51-75
Number of pages25
JournalTheory, Culture and Society
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1 Jul 2016

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015, © The Author(s) 2015.


  • cultural techniques
  • media
  • media violence
  • mediation
  • post-traumatic stress disorder
  • psychiatry
  • television
  • trauma


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