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HomeInnovationA virtual reality therapy reduces the symptoms of agoraphobia

A virtual reality therapy reduces the symptoms of agoraphobia

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A team made up of psychiatrists and computer developers have created a virtual reality scenario designed to help people with agoraphobia. This psychological disorder consists of feeling fear and stress in certain environments, situations and interactions to such an extent that the person is unable to carry out their daily lives.

Patients treated with virtual reality showed a significant improvement in the symptoms of their disease after six weeks of therapy

According to Daniel Freeman, a psychiatrist at the University of Oxford and director of the research, this methodology with virtual reality “generates a real change in the patient’s life”. In this virtual reality experience, the subject is accompanied at all times by a therapist, who guides them through different scenarios.

The tour begins in the doctor’s clinic with the door open and, progressively, the patient is taken to new scenarios of increasing difficulty. In each of these locations, the subject must complete certain tasks, such as ordering coffee from another character in the virtual world, making eye contact, or approaching groups of people.

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The psychiatrist explains that, to the extent that virtual scenarios seem real, the skills acquired by patients in this context are useful to them in their daily lives. One of the study participants, for example, was able in the virtual world to take a bus to the cemetery to visit his father’s grave. Thanks to that, a few weeks later he was able to gather strength and confidence to go to his father’s grave in the real world.

The results of the study have been published in the journal Lancet Psychiatry. On the one hand, 174 subjects with agoraphobia who received a treatment based on virtual reality participated. Another group, of 172 patients, received conventional therapy to address the same problems.

After six weeks of treatment, the virtual reality group had a small but significant decrease in the symptoms of your disease. The subjects were less stressed and less afraid to face the interactions of their daily lives.

It is not the first time that virtual reality is used with medical or scientific applications. In 2020, the University of Cambridge presented software that allows cells to be seen inside with the aim of developing better treatments for their diseases.


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