Friday June 10, 2016

How Virtual Experiences Help Patients Conquer Paranoia

VR has been used a therapy tool for various phobias, physical injuries and post-traumatic stress disorder because it’s a realistic way to transport subjects anywhere, anytime and for as long or short as is comfortable. But the best part: figures in the virtual world can’t hurt the user. "VR, we thought, was a brilliant way to help people re-learn that they are safe, to counteract the feelings of danger so the paranoia melts away," says researcher and clinical psychologist Daniel Freeman. He says this is the first time VR has been used directly to treat a psychotic experience.

The team’s study put 30 patients with persecutory delusions into a virtual experience in the London Underground or an elevator. Each subject entered the virtual world seven times for up to five minutes. With each trial, more virtual people were added to the virtual space, gradually exposing the patients to more intimidating situations with up to 28 avatars.