This story is from the category Theraputic Worlds
Date posted: 09/07/2004
Irrational fears and phobias. They can come from anywhere, seemingly at any time, and can tear a life apart, make you freeze in terror. Its estimated that only one in five people - a mere 20% - who suffer from some form of irrational fear seek treatment, because so many fear the exposure to their irrational fear.
Virtual reality is working to change this, with fully immersive, and Window-on-World (screen based) systems already in fairly regular usage to combat phobias.
Virtual reality works to bridge the gap between imagination and the physical world, by providing a synthetic reality halfway beytween the two. This reality is able to synthesize the focus of an irrational fear at any point from totally abstract to completely real. Patients whose phobias parallyse them can learn to tolerate the object of their fears through such repeated exposure - without the object of the fear being physically present.
At the Virtual Reality Medical Center (VRMC) in San Diego, CBT, or cognitive-behavioral therapy is used alongside virtual reality to treat patients with a number of phobias, including fear of flying (aviophobia), driving, fear of enclosement(clostrophobia), fear of open spaces (agraphobia), fear of arachnids (arachniphobia), and public speaking.
Trials are also underway to use it to treat eating disorders.
Before virtual reality was used in mental health treatment, patients would be asked to visualise their fears - picture themselves driving down a road, or a large spider crawling nearby. Few people have imaginations powerful enough to create this image directly however, the fear can be summoned, but not too often a real image alongside it. That's where virtual reality steps up. It can give a patient a spider that's anywhere from a wireframe creation, to a three foot horror, modelled in every fine hair, crawling up their virtual leg.
It can take the life-threatening danger out of other treatments too. Patients with a fear of driving have been known to freeze up at the wheel mid-session, putting both their life, and their therapist's at risk.
Virtual reality can model the exact same situation accurately, and with full immersion, without actually risking the lives of either party, and can be used to create far more dangerous situations than would be possible to create normally.
See the full Story via external site: pn.psychiatryonline.org
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