Using Virtual Reality to Treat Mental Health Problems

Everyone has a particular point of anxiety that they would live without. Maybe it’s speaking up in a meeting. Maybe it’s being stared at. But fret no more. Now there’s a way you can see these fears off without months or even years of therapy.

Enter VR

Virtual Reality (VR) is currently being tested as a way to treat patients who suffer from mental health problems. And University College London (UCL) is just one of the universities testing it out.

In an experiment to make people less critical of themselves, researchers attached VR headgear to participants and asked them to pretend they were comforting a child. Afterwards, the same comforting words were echoed back to them.

And it worked well. Nine of the 15 patients involved reported their depression had gotten significantly better a month after therapy. A small trial without a control group, the researchers said they intend to conduct a larger controlled trial, so they can confidently identify whether this treatment is effective.

Other Uses

In the meantime, VR has also been used to treat people who suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Used for exposure therapy, a classic technique where patients are exposed to their source of anxiety in a safe environment, patients with PTSD have noticed significant improvements in their condition.

According to Dr Pamela Stone-Fama, who has used VR in this way to treat the condition, “Most of our patients who complete this treatment don’t experience the same level of stress and intensity when faced with painful memories.”

What makes VR better than Regular Therapy

VR is useful to treat patients with mental health conditions as it gives them direct control over their experiences. This waythey can redo or adjust scenarios to best work on their particular fears while reinforcing confidence in themselves.

In conclusion, VR has come a long way in recent years and is predicted to go even further to help treat mental illness. The science behind the technology may still be developing, but its results so far have been promising as a way to deal with mental health issues. 

Nick Morgan

Created by New York City but exported to London. Currently I am studying Russian at University College London but I can not help myself from straying into countless other subjects that capture my interest. That is why I am currently in a love-hate relationship with the information age.