Treating Mental Illness with Virtual Reality Technology

What is mental illness?

Did you ever experience losing interest in everything in your life like losing interest towards your passion, your loved ones, and your living life? Have you? If yes then there must be a possibility that your mental health is not really in a good condition which we called it as mental illness. Mental illness can affect our thinking, our action, and our feeling towards something. It is because mental health includes our emotions, psychological, and social wellbeing.
Everybody can have mental illness as it has no boundaries and across all lines of gender, age, races, and even religion too! It is either your continuum of severity of the illness is mild, moderate or severe. There are several types of mental illness such as Anxiety Disorder, Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), Depression, Eating Disorder, and others.

How to treat mental illness?

Mental illness has no cure but it is treatable! People who have been diagnosed with mental illness can be treated and recover from it. The treatments are depending on types of mental illness that the patients have, the severity, and what works best on them. Some of the treatments are psychotherapy, medication, hospitalization, support group and self-help treatment. Have you ever heard of Virtual Reality Technology (VRT)? VRT before this is very much well known in the gaming industry. However, today it is also known as one of the treatments of mental illness in medication world.

Virtual Reality Technology (VRT) is a realistic three-dimensional image or computer generated environment which can be experienced, explored and interacted with a person using head-mounted display (HDM). VRT treatment for mental illness is just the same with typical counseling session but it is intensified by ‘near-reality environment’ to overcome distress and train the patients to act, feel and think constructively in a better way.

How does VRT work in the treatment?

By using VRT, mental illness patients will be treated with powerful simulation scenarios that have been created for them to experience it rather than just imagining it. The extra things about VRT is not just the realistic three-dimensional image but the simulations also can be delivered visual stimuli such as directional 3D audio, vibrations and also smell through that head-mounted display. VR therapy brings the mental illness patients into a realistic and compelling virtual life that simulate the real-life incidence that causes the mental health problem.

Virtual Reality is used in Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) for patients with Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to experience their trauma such as wars, sexual assault, and accidents again. Having them to face it in a real-like scenario yet safe and under control way. By revisiting the traumatic memory, VR helps the patients to identify, recognize and change their destructive actions, feelings, and thoughts to protect them in the virtual scenario. Experiencing the traumatic events again and again, until the patients’ minds can adapt and get used to it. By that, the patients’ emotions will not be triggered by the painful memory anymore.

Patient with Anxiety and Phobia Disorder also been treated like PTSD patient which they will be exposed to their fears such as heights, closed dark rooms, crowded places and many more. The therapy will be provided with the different virtual environment, tools, and services as relevant to the cause of anxiety. For instance, treating the patient who afraid of height, it will include software and hardware, complete with airplane seats and a subwoofer system to mimic the sights, sounds, and feeling of flying. It helps to change the negative thoughts of the situation and replace them with the positive ones. It is called Exposure Therapy (ET).

Even though virtual reality has shown a really big potential in treating mental illness, it still needs to undergo more research and clinical trials. There might be greater founds of its advantages through the future.


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