Virtual Reality and Mental Health — Therapy & Treatment with VR Technology

Diagnosing and treating people with mental and neurological disorders is one of the biggest challenges researchers and medical professionals are dealing with. This has prompted medical professionals to team up with tech companies to find cures and new methods of helping people live with their conditions. One of the latest and most interesting approaches is to use virtual reality to treat some disorders. Let’s look at how VR and mental health join forces to give patients a better quality of life.

Using VR to Treat PTSD

The latest statistics show that 70% of adults will experience at least one traumatic event in the lifetime, and 20% of those will develop Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). This is about 8 million people every year. Medical professionals’ most effective treatment is cognitive behavior therapy (CBT), which includes additional exposure therapy components. Doctors and psychologists create a safe environment where patients can relive their fears and confront them when ready to do so. This is where virtual reality for mental health can be very useful due to its sensory and immersive nature. Doctors can use VR to reconstruct the traumatic memory and allow the patient to confront it in a controlled environment until the anxiety disappears.

This approach has been proven to be successful when treating war veterans. Researchers first studied the psychological effects of virtual reality where soldiers put on a VR helmet, and they were immersed in the war zone that caused the traumatic memory. Virtual reality offered the needed life-like experience to treat the condition since the soldiers could literally hold a weapon in their hands, hear the explosions, people shouting, and other important details. One of such successes is a VR system called Bravemind, and it helped lots of soldiers process their experiences and get a good night’s sleep without taking any medications.

Treating Phobias and Anxiety Disorders With VR

What makes treating phobia so difficult is that there are so many types of them, and it can be challenging to recreate circumstances needed for treatment. Using virtual reality in psychology helps people deal with their phobias with controlled pain management techniques. For example, if the patient has acrophobia, a fear of heights, an actual recorded video of a bird’s eye view of the ground from an airplane or a picture of a mountain climber can be used to help the person deal with the pain caused by the phobia. An authentic virtual environment can be created to allow patients to practice conversations, visit remote locations, relax in a calm setting, and pretty much anything else all in VR. In fact, combining virtual reality and mental health treatment dates back to 2014 where companies like Mimense realized the big impact VR could have and started working with the medical community to find solutions that could help a wide variety of patients.

Curbing Anhedonia Using VR

Anhedonia is a widespread disorder that does not allow people to enjoy happy activities. Much research has been put into measuring the virtual reality psychological effects in treating anhedonia by placing patients in pleasant circumstances in VR. For example, suppose the patient is virtually walking in a sunny and flowery meadow. In that case, doctors can help coach the patient to enjoy some of the finer details of the experience they are overlooking and try to get some pleasure from it. After the patient has been through all of the therapy, they will be in a better potion to plan out the experience, actually participate in it and get all of the enjoyment out of it to add much-needed pleasure to their lives. Up until now, such VR therapy has helped patients with the symptoms of depression but still falls short of helping them feel more positive.

Nevertheless, virtual reality therapy has proven to be better than some of the conventional methods. The fields of both psychology and VR are rapidly evolving and developing. We can expect to see even more effective virtual reality for anxiety treatment appearing on the market. A recent paper in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology shows that virtual reality therapy for depression is more effective than regular cognitive behavior therapy, which adds greater support for a more comprehensive VR treatment in the future.

Start Using the Virtual Reality Mental Health Approach in Your Organization

If your organization wants to offer patients all of the benefits of VR mental health, Skywell Software can create a customized solution that meets your individual needs. We have extensive experience developing custom virtual reality solutions for medical purposes and can help you provide better care for your patients. Contact us to learn more about our expertise or browse through our case studies to learn about the solutions we could create for our clients.

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Skywell Software

Skywell Software

A big team of skilled professionals, who help businesses to remain competitive. Services –AR/VR, web and mobile development.

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