VR Therapy for Anxiety Disorders
VR Therapy for anxiety disorders helps people learn to manage the symptoms of their underlying anxiety disorder, just like traditional exposure therapy. In VR therapy, the individual is immersed into a virtual environment that allows for sensory exposure to the anxiety-producing stimuli using a computer-generated display. Individuals can face their triggers in a safe and private environment, where their therapist controls the intensity and duration of the stimuli, and provides guidance and coaching as appropriate.
Related: How a VR therapy session works
VR Therapy has been proven effective for treatment of anxiety disorders, including:
- Generalized Anxiety – Excessive, long-lasting anxiety and worry that is not specifically focused on a single situation or object is known as Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Among the effective interventions for generalized anxiety are behavioral interventions; specifically controlled exposure therapy and visualization. VR Therapy provides a safe, effective and convenient means to explore a variety of situations and objects that trigger generalized anxiety disorder. In addition, VR therapy provides the means for the therapist to train the individual to employ relaxation and breathing techniques.
- Social Anxiety – Treatment for Social Anxiety typically includes Cognitive Behavior Therapy and Exposure Therapy. However, some individuals with social anxieties that may find that being physically present in a provocative situation is too traumatic. VR therapy is particularly beneficial for treatment of Social Anxiety Disorders since it can expose the individual to social interactions, cognitive restructuring, social skills training, and training in relaxation techniques, all in a custom virtual environment suited to the individual’s needs.
- Eating Disorders – VR Therapy is helpful in treating Eating Disorders, particularly Bulimia Nervosa, Nervous Anorexia, and Binge Eating Disorder. Benefits are seen in two areas: body image distortion and eating patterns. VR therapy can help individuals to recognize their own body image distortion, face and correct their body image distortion, get a more realistic perception, and reduce dissatisfaction with their own body. VR exposure therapy is effective in reducing the desire or impulse towards food, and normalizing eating patterns.
- PTSD – Motor vehicle collisions are the number one cause of PTSD. Combat-related PTSD has become increasingly common in recent years. Studies have shown that VR exposure therapy significantly reduced PTSD symptoms both cohorts, in part because it provides a safe, controlled, and effective therapeutic alternative that is not dependent on real-life props, situations, or the individual’s imagination.
- OCD – Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is an anxiety disorder in which individuals have undesirable thoughts or ideas (obsessions), and perform ritualized behaviors (compulsions), such as washing hands, checking or cleaning. OCD interferes with the individual’s daily activities and social relationships. VR therapy is very beneficial for OCD as it allows the individual, and the therapist, to repeat the exposure to the fear stimuli as many times as necessary with whatever frequency and intensity is needed for the individual’s therapeutic process.
- Test Anxiety – Test anxiety is a specific form of General Anxiety Disorder related to the emotional, physiological and behavioral responses that occur around the potential consequences of negative evaluations or a future test or exam. Systematic desensitization through exposure therapy is effective in reducing test anxiety, and VR Therapy enables many different techniques of psychological intervention to be used in combination to achieve greater reduction in avoidance behaviors.