Virtual reality treatment for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

Post traumatic stress disorder or PTSD is a condition which develops when a person has been placed under extreme stress or suffered a high level of trauma. A good example of this is a soldier who has suffered PTSD as a result of front line duty but other examples include an accident, physical assault, terrorism or the after effects of a major disaster.

PTSD is treated using various therapies such as hypnotherapy but another form of treatment is virtual reality. This article discusses the ways in which this is used to treat conditions such as PTSD.

How much does this cost? This is covered in more detail in our costs of VR treatment for PTSD article.

Virtual reality is an immersive technology in which the person wears a head mounted display (HMD) which displays 3D images. As the person moves in a particular direction these images change to reflect the shift in perception. This adds to the realism and sense of immersion. The person can also interact with objects in this virtual environment by means of a data glove or some form of input device, e.g. controller.

The use of VR for PTSD

How does this work in relation to PTSD? The affected person wears a pair of virtual reality glasses or head mounted display (HMD). This contains two tiny monitors which display images of the source of their disorder, e.g. a battlefield. The rationale behind this is that exposing someone to the source of their condition combined with relaxation skills will enable them cope and adapt. As they are exposed to this over time the level of threat is removed which then decreases their anxiety levels and feelings of anxiety.

Their physiological and psychological responses are monitored and analysed as part of the treatment. Plus these are used to inform future developments in this technology.

The person is able to revisit painful memories but with a view to developing new forms of behaviour that will challenge these and any other existing beliefs. This will cause them to learn new ways of thinking and behaving which will positively impact upon their lives.

The aim is for the person to lose any feelings of anxiety caused by their condition so that they can lead a normal life.

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