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Last updated: Nov 26, 2021

How VR can help treat anxiety

Author: Maria Tsarouva
Last updated: Nov 26, 2021

Technology is a part of our everyday lives. We can respond to emails from people from different parts of the world, drive from one place to another, and press just a few buttons to make our favorite cuppa.

These are just a few scenarios that show how different technologies help to make our lives a little easier.

But technology isn't just there to make us more comfortable, which is evident in virtual reality (VR) space. Multiple studies have also shown that VR can effectively treat mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression.

The number of people who suffer from anxiety and other mental health challenges has been rising over the past few years. As a result, therapists, together with the healthcare sector as a whole, are constantly on the lookout for innovative ways to help their patients.

In this article, you'll find out what VR technology is, how it's used to treat anxiety, and most importantly, the tangible benefits this form of therapy can bring to people's lives.

Let's begin.


What is virtual reality technology?

VR technology can be used to create an immersive experience for users, and has been adapted to countless use cases in the healthcare space, including physician and practitioner training, patient education, and patient therapies such as anxiety treatment.

VR headsets are a key component used to create the virtual world. Once a user puts them on, these help to remove external stimuli and connect to the visuals and audio sensations within the program. Head and body tracking follow the user's motions, shifting the landscape around them based on real-time movements.

The result? A 3D world that a user can experience and interact with.

The traditional treatment for anxiety

There are many different types of anxiety disorders. These include obsessive-compulsive disorder, social anxiety disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder, to name a few.

There are also multiple ways to treat these disorders, like:

  • Mindfulness
  • Breathing techniques
  • Relaxation techniques
  • Exercise
  • Dietary adjustments
  • Cognitive therapy
  • Behavioral therapy
  • Medication
  • Support groups
  • Counseling

While the above are traditional forms of anxiety treatments that many of us are familiar with, the challenge is that even with these different treatment options, more and more people are reportedly suffering from anxiety.

Since anxiety disorders can debilitate and affect a person's schooling, work, and overall health, research is always ongoing about new methods to treat it. In recent years, the studies that show the effectiveness of VR for anxiety can't be denied.


Why use VR for anxiety?

Using VR technology to help treat anxiety creates a platform where users can face the source of their stress in manageable chunks and eventually deal with it in a better and healthier way. That's because VR exposes the patient to the triggers.

In everyday life, a person suffering from anxiety disorders might learn to avoid their triggers to cope, but this usually results in the condition getting more intense over time.

The best way to treat any form of anxiety is for the patients to face the source of the problem, look at it from a new perspective, and over time, the intensity of the stress-induced subsides.

VR technology works for anxiety and many other phobias because it helps patients face their fears and actively develop healthy coping mechanisms. This is all done in a safe and controlled environment.

Benefits of using VR technology for anxiety

In order to understand the advantages of VR treatment for anxiety, we have to look at what studies reveal.

The Journal of Medical Signals and Sensors published an interesting study that showed how VR can play a significant role in treating claustrophobia, an irrational fear of confined spaces.

The VR software simulated an elevator experience for the patients. Researchers found that the VR simulation helped to reduce the anxiety related to being in that confined space. They also noted additional benefits to introducing VR to patients, including how easy it is to use.

Another great benefit of VR treatment is its gamification elements. The experience can be created so that there are levels and positive rewards for engaging in certain activities. This can be an excellent way to help motivate and incentivize patients to participate in the treatment actively.

Saving on both cost and time are additional benefits of VR therapy. For example, when people suffer from anxiety and other irrational fears, it often takes a lot of years of treatment for them to live "normal," healthy lives.

But studies have shown that VR therapy is effective in reducing the time it takes to treat patients, which directly results in lower costs of treatment.

VR therapy can be an excellent convenience for both therapist and patient, especially when traveling to a physical location for treatment is challenging or impossible. Going this route means that therapy can take place either in person or remotely.


How to get started with VR for anxiety

The best place to start when looking into VR solutions to treat anxiety and other phobias is to connect with the right team of software developers.

The Vention team are experienced medical software developers who specialize in creating custom solutions for organizations. The team will also ensure that they provide a HIPAA-compliant solution, so that's one less thing to worry about.

Final thoughts

Anxiety, PTSD, and other phobias are challenging conditions to live with. These conditions are known to debilitate patients to the extent that their quality of life and overall well-being are negatively affected.

Hospitals, clinics, and other healthcare providers who treat these conditions are constantly looking for innovative ways to help their patients. Finally, after much research and studies, it seems as though VR may be the answer.

This unlikely route can help patients from all walks of life face their anxiety and phobias, reduce the stress triggers, and eventually allow them to live the lives they deserve without the constant irrational fears.

All the studies, research, and benefits point to one fact — there has never been a better time to get started with VR therapy.