PTSD, or post-traumatic stress disorder, is a psychiatric disorder that affects around 8 million Americans. It often happens as an acute response to experiencing, witnessing, or being continually exposed to traumatic events such as war, sexual assault, or severe injury.

At the moment, there is no cure for this often debilitating condition. PTSD treatment usually relies on therapy techniques coupled with medication to minimize symptoms. 

Is Virtual Reality the Cure We’ve Been Looking For?

Plenty of people think virtual reality (VR) is only suitable for gaming, but the reality is that VR has a vast range of applications. According to a meta-analysis from the European Journal of Psychotraumatology, one of these applications could be treating PTSD. The trick lies in VR’s ability to simulate real environments to an almost uncanny degree.

Virtual reality therapy would involve something that seems almost unthinkable; making patients relive their trauma. Researchers say it would be especially effective for people who avoid thoughts, memories, and situations that remind them of their trauma and cause anxiety. This avoidance behavior can become extreme over time and prevent them from leading a normal, fulfilling life.

It can cause them to develop phobias and completely avoid certain situations, thoughts, and emotions. This only increases their fear and anxiety levels and prevents them from confronting their demons.

Virtual Therapy Exposure Treatment (VRET)

Exposure treatment using virtual therapy may be a good start. Virtual reality presents a perfect avenue in situations where the individual cannot physically relive the situation that traumatized them. By immersing themselves in a computer-generated environment that closely resembles their feared locations or situations, people suffering from PTSD may be able to gain a little relief. 

Studies involving Vietnam War veterans who used virtual reality therapy found that the treatment reduced the symptoms of PTSD. Further studies on veterans from the Afghanistan and Iraq wars affirmed that virtual therapy exposure treatment can minimize PTSD symptoms. 

In its meta-analysis, the European Journal of Psychotraumatology states that ‘repeated confrontation with the fear stimulus’ will eventually lead to a reduced fear response in the presence of the stimulus. Since VRET has been effective against specific phobias and anxiety disorders in the past, researchers hope it can do the same for PTSD.

What Makes Virtual Reality Well-Suited for PTSD Treatment?

One key aspect of managing PTSD symptoms is combating avoidance. This is done by essentially reliving the situations that triggered the PTSD response in the first place. Here’s how VR is well suited for this kind of treatment:

Contact Mobile Psych Today

If you or a loved one are exhibiting PTSD symptoms and think VR therapy could help, contact us today. We’d love to answer your questions about this innovative form of  PTSD treatment.