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VR role-play therapy helps people with agoraphobia, finds study.virtual reality

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City street on a sunny day with a green bus stopping by the curb. On board, a handful of passengers sit frowning as they step up to present their passes. However, I can’t see my body, only my blue hand is floating.

It may sound like a strange dream, but the scenario is a virtual reality designed to help people with Agoraphobia, where certain environments, situations, and interactions can cause intense fear and distress. (VR) part of the system.

Scientists say the approach helps participants build confidence, ease their fears, and enable them to tackle challenges they previously avoided. The study also found that those with more severe psychological problems benefited the most.

“This is going to make a huge difference in people’s lives,” said Daniel Freeman, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Oxford.

The VR experience begins in a virtual therapist’s office and transitions to scenarios such as opening the front door or undergoing surgery by a doctor. Each one has different difficulty levels. Participants are asked to complete certain tasks, such as asking for coffee, and are encouraged to make eye contact and get close to other characters.

GameChange: Improving Lives with VR Therapy – Video

According to Freeman, the scenarios feel real, but the computer-generated scenes allow participants to try something new or approach situations in a different way. “There’s a little conscious bit [of the brain] Go: “OK, okay. I know it’s not real, so I can be persistent and try something new and do something different,” he said.

“It allows people to apply it to the real world. Basically, if you get over something in VR, you can get over it in the real world.”

One participant revealed that before using the VR system, he struggled to catch the bus to visit his father’s grave. “It was heartbreaking,” he said. But after using the VR system, he gained confidence.

“It helped me in every way,” he said. “I was able to take the bus to my father’s grave. I was able to put some flowers there, spend some time there, and get the bus back.”

A virtual bus with passengers watching participants.
VR sessions were always accompanied by a mental health worker. Photo: OCAP

Writing in the Lancet Psychiatry journal, Freeman and colleagues randomized 174 homebound and psychotic patients to use “gameChange” VR technology alongside their usual care. I am reporting how I assigned. Another 172 of her patients were assigned to receive usual care only.

Participants in the VR group were given the opportunity to use the technology in approximately six sessions, each session lasting 30 minutes, over the course of six weeks, although not all attended or completed all sessions.

A mental health worker was present in the room while each participant used a VR headset, both at home and in an NHS clinic, to work with participants to apply their learning, including setting homework assignments between sessions.

Six weeks after the start of the trial, patients assigned to VR therapy were less likely to avoid real-life situations due to agoraphobia than those who received only usual care. It was shown to be significantly reduced and less painful. However, by 6 months he was no different between the two groups.

However, further analysis revealed that those who had severe agoraphobia benefited the most, and that these people’s effects lasted for six months. On average, I was able to complete two more activities than before, such as riding

While the study cannot deduce the effects of VR therapy from mental health workers and their homework, Freeman noted that other tests found no change in agoraphobia in this population from such homework alone. says.

Freeman added that VR headsets now cost around £300, making it easier to send such devices to patients’ homes.

For a patient who wanted to visit his father’s grave, the benefits were far more extensive than simply completing a task. “I feel more confident in myself. I feel more confident around other people.”