Virtual environments have been carefully designed in VirtualRET for exposure therapy of anxiety disorders. The virtual environment is controlled by the therapist through the platform ensuring full control of exposure to the programmed situations. Virtual reality exposure treatment allows the therapist to manipulate situations to best suit the individual patient during a standard therapy session.
Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is a common chronic disorder characterized by long-lasting anxiety that is not focused on any one object or situation. Those suffering from generalized anxiety experience non-specific persistent fear, worry and become overly concerned with everyday matters.
VirtualRET is an appropriate platform to help patients to face their worries and teach them how to use techniques such as relaxation exercises:
- Deep breathing
- Muscle relaxation exercises (Jacobson)
- Autogenic training
After learning the appropriate relaxation techniques, patients will be able to face different situations through virtual reality environments included in the VirtualRet library.
Approximately 20-35% of people have a social phobia or social anxiety disorder. Glossophobia, or speech anxiety, is the most common social disorder.
The fear of public speaking or speaking in general is an intense anxiety prior to, or simply at the thought of, having to verbally communicate with any group. Patients will be able to face a small or large audience in different virtual environments. 1) meeting room, 2) conference hall, where patients will have to prepare a short speech.
Fear of flying is a level of anxiety so great that it prevents a person from travelling by air, and causes great distress. It affects 10% of the population.
In vivo exposure is usually chosen to treat these cases, but this technique cannot be used on most patients because it is too complex and costly. Exposure to virtual reality environments is an alternative that is equally effective and safe.
Acrophobia is an extreme or irrational fear of heights. It belongs to a category of specific phobias, called space and motion discomfort, that share both similar etiology and treatment options. The most extreme manifestations can include panic attacks or vomiting.
VirtualRET provides two virtual environments where patients can be gradually immersed, at their own pace, facing situations of increasing height: 1) bridge, 2) twenty- floor building.
More than 10% of people are diagnosed with this type of phobia. These patients have an irrational fear of the sight of blood or wounds, injections, blood analysis, etc. Unlike other phobias, this condition is characterized by a two-phase anxiety response.
VirtualRet provides different virtual reality environments that simulate a blood test in hospital.
Agoraphobia is an anxiety disorder that manifests itself in situations where the sufferer perceives the environment to be difficult to escape from. These situations include, but are not limited to, wide-open spaces, as well as uncontrollable social situations that may arise in shopping centers, airports or on bridges.
In VirtualRET, the patient will face, in a safe environment, the kind of situations that may have caused a panic attack.