Virtual reality (VR) is all the craze right now. Tech-enthusiasts everywhere are loving the immersive gaming and theater experience that VR provides. As VR has become more readily available, its uses have expanded far beyond mere entertainment. The immersive nature of VR has proven to be beneficial for the treatment of certain mental health disorders. Post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, phobias and stress can all be uniquely treated using virtual reality therapies.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
For decades, virtual reality has been used to administer virtual reality exposure therapy (VRET) for individuals with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Traditionally, this type of therapy was extremely expensive as the technology was scarce and costly. Fortunately, recent technological innovations have made virtual reality as readily available as smartphones. Therapists are now able to utilize virtual reality to deliver specialized therapies to war veterans, accident survivors, and countless others who suffer from PTSD.
The newfound availability of VR technology allows therapists to safely expose patients to known triggers like loud noises or stressful situations in order to eventually lessen their impact on the patient. A recent study found that this type of therapy was equally as beneficial as drug therapy; without any of the risky side effects.
Anxiety and Phobias
Given the vast number of individuals in the United States that are affected by anxiety (40 million) and phobias (17 million), decentralized healthcare via telemedicine has become incredibly appealing. Virtual reality allows therapists to provide patients with self-guided therapy that has the potential to make a real difference for patients who are unable to consistently visit their doctor. Additionally, new technology has the potential to remove the need for a therapist altogether.
Mimerse is a Swedish company aiming to use gaming-style psychological treatment tools to help individuals that suffer from phobias. Their first game, Itsy, treats arachnophobia (the fear of spiders), without the involvement of a therapist. While there is no substitute for professional intervention, most phobia sufferers never seek medical help, positioning a therapeutic game as an ideal psychological treatment tool for self-help.
Like it or not, stress is a part of our daily lives. Fortunately, VR can be used to help those who suffer from stress through immersive meditative experiences. DEEP is a ‘meditative and psychoactive’ VR game controlled by a user’s breathing. The VR game transports you into a serene underworld where the breathing principles of yoga are used to help you relax. It’s easy to see the potential health benefits of being able to submerge yourself in a meditative experience, regardless of location. No longer will you have to wait for an annual vacation to relax on the beach, simply pop on some VR goggles and be there, instantly.
While most tech-enthusiasts value virtual reality simply for gaming or immersive theater experiences, it has the potential to do much more. The ability to virtually transport individuals instantaneously to serene environments could make a huge difference in the lives of those suffering from anxiety and stress. Perhaps even more impressive are the ways VR can help survivors of traumatic events emotionally recover. While virtual reality is unlikely to completely overtake the world of therapy, it’s a supplementary tool that patients can use when professional help is unavailable or hard to come by.
Kali Muir is an ambitious freelance writer with a BA in Communications. She was born in Canada but has since lived in Norway, Denmark, and England. Her work experience is as diverse as her past addresses, including roles in technical communication, corporate communication, marketing, and article writing. She has experience working in varied business sectors: Oil & Gas, Engineering & Technology, Clothing & Equipment Retail, and Creative Writing. Follow Kali’s professional and personal journey at www.kalimuir.com, or connect with her on LinkedIn and Twitter.