Anxiety Treatment with Virtual Reality Shows Tremendous Potential

Virtual reality is an emerging technology with vast implications in various sectors of life and now it may hold enormous potential in treating patients with anxiety. The severity of the disorder ranges from:

  • General Anxiety
  • Social Anxiety
  • Paranoia

Researching Virtual Reality to treat Anxiety

Researching Virtual Reality to treat Anxiety

In a research conducted at Oxford University, a test group of 30 individuals suffering from extreme paranoia were placed in virtual environments ranging from London Underground to a lift simulation. The purpose of the simulations was to demonstrate that the situations and places that they feared were in fact, nothing to be afraid of.

The simulations were designed to be as real as possible to bring forward the exact situations that the patients found to be fearful. The number of people in the situations also grew over time, as most of the individuals involved in the study were stressed out by large crowds and interacting with people.

The test group was selected from Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust and were issued separate directives on how to behave in the simulation.

The first group was told to react how they would normally and were assured that they would start to get used to the situation even if the scenario felt awkward initially.

The second group was told to be more confident in the situation and to explore their surroundings, learn from it and investigate the things around them.

Real Results from Virtual Reality

The research tests were very positive, with over half of the second group reporting to have lost paranoia about the situation at the end of the test. 20 percent of test individuals of first group lost their paranoia in comparison.

The test results are excellent indicators to demonstrate potential of utilizing virtual reality to treat anxiety related disorders. Daniel Freeman, Project Leader from Oxford University’s Psychiatry Departmentstated that the patients responded surprisingly well to this form of treatment and this opened new roads towards treating patients suffering from different forms of anxiety.

“In just a 30 minute session, those who used the right psychological techniques showed major reductions in paranoia”, he said.

virtual reality study


Limitations of the Study

However, the study does have its limitations. The test group selected for the study is paltry compared to what must be selected to gather official results. The participants for the study were also subjected to very short intervals therapy via virtual reality simulation. The study is more of a test to see whether virtual reality can or cannot be used to treat anxiety disorders.

Nevertheless, it doesn’t dampen the potential that it holds to treat patients suffering from anxiety. With initial results displaying remarkable improvement in paranoia, it can be safely said that virtual reality will be a powerful tool to aid patients in eliminating their paranoia in the near future.



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