#261- Virtual Reality Exposure and Anxiety Disorders

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261-283 Virtual Reality Exposure & Anxiety Disorders

Based on research done by McLay, Robert N., Wood, D. P., Webb-Murphy, J. A., Spira, J. L., Wiederhold, M. D., Pyne, J. M., & Wiederhold, B. K. (2011) written by Brittany Haage, B.S.

Exposure therapy is a well-established effective treatment for anxiety disorders. Clients are gradually exposed to the situations or objects that cause them to be fearful. Encouraging them to face their fears by small steps, reduces their automatic reactions to be afraid.

Often real-life trauma like war, fire, rape, spiders and snakes, cannot be safely or gradually approached, except in imagination, which also works, yet is not as controlled. Using technological advances, Virtual Reality Exposure Therapy (VRET) has introduced a modern take on exposure therapy. With Virtual Reality headsets, the person navigates through digitally constructed, yet harmless environments representing their frightening former trauma.  Physical safety is assured. VRET even helps to increase client attendance.

VRET is effective for people with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and a variety of anxiety disorders. Research shows that service men and women who were in military combat in Iraq and Afghanistan and also suffered from PTSD, had a greater reduction in their PTSD symptoms with VRET compared to treatment as usual (90% medications). VRET has potential to be a very effective way to cut treatment costs and most importantly, reduce the pain this population often endures on a larger scale .

References:

McLay, Robert N., Wood, D. P., Webb-Murphy, J. A., Spira, J. L., Wiederhold, M. D., Pyne, J. M., & Wiederhold, B. K. (2011). A randomized, controlled trial of virtual reality-graded exposure therapy for post-traumatic stress disorder in active duty service members with combat-related post-traumatic stress disorder. Cyberpsychology, behavior, and social networking14(4), 223-229.

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