VR mental therapy

With one out of every four people experiencing a mental health problem at some point in their lives, boosting access to effective, real-time treatments like Virtual Reality therapy has become critical. 

According to Beyond Blue, over three million Australians live with anxiety or struggle with depression.

Therapists must undergo significant training. The most successful kinds of treatment entail guiding patients in everyday settings, which is time-consuming and hence expensive.

An option might be to deliver psychiatric therapy via virtual reality therapy (VR).

What is VR in simple words?

Virtual reality combines real-time computer visuals, audio, and other sensory perceptions to create an artificial environment with which the user may interact. The virtual environment is viewed using a headset (HMD), which is often a helmet or goggles with tv displays and headphones, rather than a computer screen.

Motion tracking sensors linked to the Head Mounted Display enable the computer to adjust the field of vision to the user’s motions. This allows the user to explore and navigate in the virtual environment. A successful experience gives the user a sensation that they are physically there in the virtual world.

How does Virtual Reality therapy treat Mental health issues?

Virtual reality therapy is very useful for anxiety because they simulate actual reactions to fearful situations. Recent research shows that individuals with mental problems like OCD, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or phobias benefit from exposure therapy using simulated visuals. Additionally, virtual reality settings have demonstrated the ability to alter mood, cognition, and even social interaction.

Recovery VR offers mental health applications dedicated to exposure therapy and stress relief. Your doctor can prescribe your favourite apps to affect mood change, reduce panic attacks and increase your brain’s neuroplasticity.

Virtual Reality for Anxiety disorders and PTSD

Anxiety is a natural response to stress, and it may be useful in some instances. It can warn us of impending risks and assist us in preparing and paying attention. Panic disorders are distinguished from typical sensations of uneasiness or anxiety by the presence of excessive worry or stress. These issues are highly common and affect about 30 % of individuals at some time in their life.

People suffering from anxiety disorders try to avoid circumstances that trigger or intensify their symptoms. Work performance, coursework, and/or relationships might all suffer as a result. In general, to be diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, a person’s anxiety must:

  • be out of scale to the scenario or time of life
  • impair capacity to operate normally

A new type of realistic simulation may be used to analyse and treat inaccurate panic provoking thoughts. Generally, these symptoms are regarded as significant disorders in which individuals worry obsessively about something frightening. Maples-Keller et al. studied various case studies of social anxiety, depression and generalised panic disorders in order to replicate standard exposure therapies in VR.

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a series of behaviours that can develop in persons who have experienced a terrible incident that endangered their life, safety, or the lives of those around them. This might be a major accident, physical or sexual abuse, combat or torture, or natural catastrophes like forest fires or hurricanes. As a result, the individual experiences great dread, helplessness, or terror

Virtual reality (VR) therapy has proven to be an effective treatment for a variety of psychiatric problems. Patients with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) have benefited from VR exposure therapies by eliminating traumatic events through repetitive treatments. They also experienced a reduction in pain by diverting their attention away from uncomfortable situations.

Phobia and Exposure therapy through Recovery VR

Phobia is a form of anxiety disorder defined by strong and persistent worries triggered by the sight or expectation of certain items or circumstances, as well as a desire to avoid the scenario because of the dread and discomfort involved. Acrophobia, flight phobia, phobias of insects or animals, and other phobias are examples of phobias.

Exposure treatment in VR is beneficial and cost-effective as it allows us to treat such particular phobias in VR environments. Rothbaum et al. undertook the study to evaluate the usefulness of virtual reality in managing acrophobia in university students in the 1990s and discovered that it is effective in lowering their fear of heights. Recovery VR offers patients exposure to graded phobia causing scenarios such as heights, crowds, driving etc.

Patients with phobias might use virtual reality to recreate and confront the circumstance they are afraid of. The application of virtual reality on a regular basis raises the anxiety threshold and makes the experience less intensive, resulting in a lower occurrence of real-life scenarios.

Applications of VR in Other Mental Illnesses:

This is just the start of an explosion in potential brought on by ever-more advanced technologies. It’s important to mention that the usefulness of using VR in this field is also being studied objectively.

  • Because of VR’s wide reach, it may now be used in the diagnosis and rehabilitation of people with schizophrenia and autism by enhancing their social activities.
  • It is an effective treatment for memory impairment, MCI (mild cognitive impairment) and Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Immersive VR therapy is emerging as a great alternative for postural disabilities and motor skills, particularly among patients suffering from conditions like Stroke.
  • VR may improve diagnosis in addition to potentially improving treatment results. Experts feel that Immersive testing for disorders like schizophrenia, ADHD, and autism provides more objective results than interview-based procedures.

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About the author : Christian

Christian Doran is a technologist and creator.

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