Research shows VR therapy can reduce phobia symptoms in users by about 75%

In order to reduce the anxiety of cows and increase their milk production, farmers in Turkey and Russia put VR headsets on cows. In medical procedures, VR can help patients reduce pain. Now, experts from the University of Otago in Christchurch have begun to try to use VR to alleviate various phobias in humans, and research results show that VR can effectively alleviate phobias.

The team from the Institute's Department of Psychological Medicine relied on a custom self-directed mobile app called "oVRcome" that combined VR 360-degree video exposure and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) to treat 129 participants with phobias. The treatment assessed participants' five different phobias of flying, needles, heights, spiders, and dogs.

The treatment is mainly done by gradually increasing the participants' tolerance of fear, such as for users who are afraid of spiders, the study will gradually guide users from being afraid to face spiders to coming into contact with them. After 6 weeks of treatment, the treatment successfully reduced participants' phobia symptoms by about 75%, with one participant who was afraid of spiders feeling confident to remove a spider from their home after treatment, while the other was afraid of spiders. Those who fly are willing to go on vacation overseas.

In addition, VR treatment costs are lower and fewer users abandon treatment than conventional face-to-face treatment with a psychiatrist.

The study was published in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry (Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry). Additionally, MindGuide last September showcased an app called Phobys that uses a similar approach to exposure therapy to help users with arachnophobia.

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