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Beat Anxiety with Virtual Reality

Virtual reality (VR) can be, and is being used for many other projects besides entertainment. VRFocus has already covered some of the uses VR is being trialled on in medicine such as phobias and alcohol addiction. But anxiety is something many people can suffer from and can be triggered by ordinary events. Now a team in America is testing out software to try and combat various anxieties.

On Medical Realities blog, co-founder Edward Miller tried a simple technique using a Samsung Gear VR head-mounted display (HMD) and the movie Avatar to test how his anxiety levels at one of the most common places people get nervous and stressed, the dentist. Whilst having a filling being replaced, he watched Avatar and the dentist was happy to oblige. Miller found that his anxiety levels were indeed lower using the HMD although the sound of the dentist drilling could still be heard through the headphones.

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Whilst that was a basic test, Psytech Phobos is an American company that is developing VR software that can directly manage fear and anxiety whilst the user is in a safe and controlled environment. Psytech Phobos is using VR for systematic desensitization, also called ‘graduated exposure therapy’. Where sufferers of various anxieties are gradually exposed to their triggers over a period of time to build up confidence in overcoming their fear or phobia, eventually becoming ‘conditioned’ to feel relaxed and calm when these triggers happen.

This technique shows that with some simple off the shelf VR technology can help start to transform peoples lives, and VRFocus will report on any further developments that are announced in the future.