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The innovative Virtual Reality Therapy and its applications

The innovative Virtual Reality Therapy and its applications

August 17, 2022

Currently, depression and anxiety disorders have become the most common mental disorders in our society. Over the years, different methodologies have been proposed to address their treatment. One of the most recent is the Virtual Reality Therapy .

This form of therapy allows to relive situations in a virtual way, so that patients can safely experience different problematic situations. Data from different investigations show positive results with few treatment sessions.

Virtual Reality Therapy for the treatment of depression

A study carried out by the University College London (UCL) and the Catalan Institution for Research and Advanced Studies (ICREA) suggests that virtual reality therapy (TRV) it may become a form of treatment for depression in the future . The investigation was carried out with 15 subjects suffering from a depressive disorder. The age of the participants ranged from 23 to 61 years, and the results were positive in 60% of the cases.


Thanks to the cost of hardware has become cheaper and its functionality has increased, studies in this line of research have increased in recent years. Even so, so far, few had treated depression since they focused on anxiety disorders. The research carried out by the UCL and the ICREA used techniques that had already shown their effectiveness in other forms of therapy, such as Post-Traumatic Stress Therapy.

For this research and after placing the virtual reality helmet on the study participants, the treatment began with the patient observing his own body in a mirror. This elicited the incarnation or the illusion that the avatar (virtual identity) was his own body. The patients were then asked to show compassion for an anguished child. After taking care of him, he stopped crying and responded positively. Afterwards, the image changed perspective (to the child's vision) and the child saw (that is, the subjects) an adult saying their own words and gestures.


The importance of self-pity

This 8-minute scenario was repeated three times in a three-week period. Of the participating subjects, 9 of 15 showed a significant reduction in depressive symptomatology . However, although the results are positive, the lack of a control group makes it necessary to carry out more research to confirm these results.

Dr. Chris Brewin, director of the study and professor of psychiatry, explains: "Self-pity is important because it calms feelings of anguish, because otherwise anguish can take control and is really unbearable." The author adds: "We now know that many patients with depression and other disorders have real problems to be compassionate towards themselves, although they are often very good at being compassionate towards others."

Virtual Reality Therapy for the treatment of anxiety

But virtual reality therapy has not only proven effective in the treatment of depression, but it has long been used to treat anxiety. There are several companies that have started to include it as one of their services, because has shown its effectiveness in various anxiety disorders, especially for the treatment of phobias . For example, it is possible to recreate the environment of an airplane while flying through virtual reality. It has also shown its effectiveness in helping to speak in public.


This technique has also been used for the treatment of patients with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), who suffer from this condition due to a sexual assault, a car accident or a terrorist attack, such as the attack that occurred on September 11 in the United States. United, and in which there were thousands of affected. The researchers say that, in addition, has shown effectiveness with eating disorders or alcoholism . The idea is that when a person is in a three-dimensional and safe environment, they can face the problem or the people who provoke anxiety more effectively.

TRV helps the patient cope with hard emotions safely

One of the greatest experts in the application of this technique is Skip Rizzo, director of virtual reality research in medicine at the Institute of Creative Technologies, University of Southern California. "When you talk about traumatic experiences like the experience of a war or a sexual assault, these are events that will change someone for life," explains Rizzo. "We are not creating digital violations here.Our goal is to get a person closer to dealing with hard emotions safely, "he adds.

So, Is Virtual Reality Therapy the future of psychology? That will tell time.

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Virtual Reality Technology Treatment for Mental Illness (August 2022).


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