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.