Virtual Reality used in Treatment of Phobia
Virtual Reality in the treatment of phobias offers a new form of cognitive-behavioral therapy that involves systemic exposure to feared situations through a human-computer interaction. Research from renowned psychologists reveals that Virtual Reality is more successful compared to the traditional form of exposure therapy. After the diagnostic interview is conducted, and the psychologist establishes the service would be beneficial to the situation, the patient is placed in a computer generated three-dimensional world and guided through the selected environment. Duke University School of Medicine (2012) states that computer graphics and other display input technologies are integrated to give the patient a sense of reality. The therapist then leads the patient through the setting where they interact throughout the session. Six to twelve sessions of this therapy are needed to achieve maximum benefit.
Among other phobias, social phobia can be treated through exposure to the feared situation, which makes Virtual Reality an option when treating it. Studies also show that phobia subjects are appropriately sensitive to virtual situations. The virtual environment in the treatment reproduces situations that the social phobia patient feels most threatened. They include performance, intimacy, scrutiny, and assertiveness (Duke University School of Medicine 2012). The patient learns adaptive cognitions when exposed to these situations. This helps to reduce their anxiety in similar real life situations.
The use of tricyclic antidepressants to treat phobias and other anxiety disorders has been available for a very long time. Although treating phobias through antidepressants is effective, Virtual Reality treatment still offers some unique advantages when compared to antidepressants treatment. First, a patient treated using antidepressants develops dependency on these chemicals compared to a patient who is completely overcomes their phobias through Virtual Reality. Arguably, some antidepressants have side effects compared to virtual reality, which does not have side effects. Some of these side effects include irreversible MAO inhibitors, which develop because of continued use of antidepressants (Duke University School of Medicine 2012).
Apart from the high success rates, Duke University School of Medicine (2012) argues that there are other advantages of virtual reality compared to the more traditional methods. First, the virtual exposure increases safety and control for both the patient and therapist. Secondly, there is ease in scheduling this treatment. In addition, the patient’s confidentiality is highly protected. Since the sessions are shorter, patients and insurance companies will easily pay for the treatment. Finally, the therapist is easily able to control stimuli to produce perfect exposure, therefore, producing favorable results. In conclusion, Virtual Reality used in the treatment of phobia is a phenomenal scientific advancement that offers phobia patients a better chance of overcoming their phobias within a favorable environment.
Duke University School of Medicine. Virtual Reality therapy for phobias: General Psychiatry Division, 2012. Retrieved from: http://psychiatry.duke.edu/divisions/general-psychiatry/virtual-reality-therapy- phobias