Prof Freeman said: "When VR is done properly, the experience triggers the same psychological and physiological reactions as real-life situations".
Tested in a group of individuals with a clinical fear of heights, automated VR was more effective at reducing fear of heights after 2 weeks of intervention compared with usual care (mean change score -24.5 [VR] versus -1.2 [control], adjusted difference -24.0, 95% CI -27.7 to -20.3, Cohen's d=2.0, P 0.0001), according to Daniel Freeman, PhD, DClinPsy, of the University of Oxford, and colleagues.
People who have lived with a fear of heights for decades became less afraid after virtual reality (VR) therapy had them riding a flying whale, researchers said this week.
Psychological therapy in which people confront their fears in virtual reality could play a key role in tackling phobias and other mental health issues, a new study has found.
Participants were given six VR treatment sessions roughly for 30 minutes each for two weeks where they wore a VR headset.
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Throughout various activities, starting with simpler tasks, such as watching a safety barrier drop gradually, leading to harder tasks like walking on a platform over a large drop, the virtual coach offered encouragement, and afterwards explained what the participants had learned from their activities and asked whether they felt safer than before.
The first session has the virtual coach provide a brief overview of the psychological underpinnings of fear of heights and treatment.
At the end of treatment and at follow-up, control group participants rated their fear of heights as remaining similar, but all participants in the virtual reality treatment group rated that their fear of heights had reduced.
The present study consisted of a randomized control trial with 100 subjects who had suffered from a fear of heights for 30 years on average. The authors note that the treatment was brief, and further benefits could be possible with a longer treatment duration. "It definitely pushed the limits in terms of what I thought I would be able to achieve, and then got me to go past that". "I feel as if I'm making enormous progress, and feel very happy with what I've gained". "This is often impractical in face-to-face therapy, but easily done in VR". Studies are needed to confirm the place of VR in increasing access via automation, and improving effect size by virtual exposure therapy. Oxford VR contributed funding to the study. For more information, please see: http://www.sciencemediacentre.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/AMS-press-release-labelling-system-GUIDANCE.pdf if you have any questions or feedback, please contact The Lancet press office firstname.lastname@example.org.