In an ever-advancing world, technology makes strides in every field, even unlikely ones. It can be difficult to imagine how an advanced technological concept such as virtual reality therapy can assist in an almost gadget-free field such as psychology. It can come as a surprise to know that such methods have been applied for a while and also yield wonderful results.
Various facets of mental health can greatly benefit from creating a pseudo-environment that places the patient under conditions that can help with their condition. Such simulations might be difficult to conjure in real life. It saves time and money, while also possessing the capability to speed up the healing process.
1. Virtual Reality Therapy (VRT): Introduction
The patient undergoing the treatment process can suffer from a variety of diseases ranging from mild anxiety to PTSD. A lot of them can massively incorporate the virtual reality therapy treatment process to ease the pain. Through a virtual reality setup, they can be subjected to a milder form of their issues, thus gradually building in them the strength to face those head-on. The levels and scenarios can become more advanced as they reach further stages.
1.1. Exposure to Virtual Reality Therapy
Exposure to such places in real life can result in trauma and may have undesired effects. But with a VR headset, the patients have the option of immediately exiting the process in case they feel uncomfortable. The idea dates back to as far as 1995 and further developments persist in the field. The connotations of a fully developed advanced virtual reality technology can be groundbreaking in the field of psychology. It can largely alter the classical ideas of psychology and force us to rethink our approach to it.
1.2. Mental Health and Virtual Reality Therapy
Yet, mental health is one of those areas that can seldom work without a human touch. If a licensed therapist is not present with the patient during the treatment, it is bound to lead to disastrous results. Psychology is a field that often faces the complaint of being a bit on the expensive side.
Adding technology as contemporary and machinery-heavy as virtual reality into the mix has the potential to burn a hole in one’s pocket. But there are cost-effective alternatives that patients can opt for, depending upon the kind of treatment they are going for.
To prove the worth of this method, certain mental health issues and how virtual reality therapy has helped in their cure will be discussed below.
2. Applications of Virtual Reality Therapy
Virtual Reality Therapy is being recommended to patients across many countries, as a replacement for antidepressant medicines, which can cause harm to the patient’s health. Certain interactive and fun yet mildly serious games were developed for these patients to play. The target audience reacted favorably to this idea and there was also a reported ease in their mental condition. The patients move through these games combating the character of depression and fighting negative thoughts.
2.2. Eating Disorders
For those suffering from eating disorders, a virtual reality was created which helped them realize the irrationality of some of their decisions. It showed them, through creative visualization, the effects that their decisions can have on their bodies and how greatly they can be affected due to it. The realization of the grave seriousness of the situation gradually dawned upon most of the affected. Body shapes and the dangers of unhealthy eating habits were simulated through technology, a feat entirely impossible to achieve in the absence of it.
This one might be the easiest to imagine. Through the aid of virtual reality headsets and other appropriate gear, those suffering from certain phobias got to face them head-on. The comforting realization that they can quit anytime it gets too excessive gave them the much-needed relief. It produced drastically effective results, more often than not concluding with a satisfied user.
2.4. Gender Dysphoria
Virtual reality proved to be an immense help to those not entirely in tune with their gender identity. It appeared as a means to escape reality to gradually help them get comfortable in their skin. The users were given independence and utmost control to view the world through whichever lens they deemed fit.
They could style their person and contact like-minded individuals to grow a support system. This helps them realize that they are not fighting these issues alone, which helps them generate faith in themselves that they might just be able to get through.
2.5. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Those who have undergone an especially traumatic event or period have difficulty tapping into those stressful memories, thus complicating the job of the psychologist even further. Through virtual reality, they can relive the upsetting memory gradually and as per their readiness. They can then face their fears and prohibit the event from affecting them and entirely sever whatever control it had over their life.
2.6. Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
A study concludes that after undergoing a virtual classroom treatment, those diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder responded more positively than those being treated with a stimulant medication. Thanks to virtual reality gear, they were able to manage their impulses, and cognitive responses and were able to focus more than usual.
Even to the surprise of those administering the whole process, the effects of virtual reality therapy on autism patients were overwhelmingly positive to an unexpectedly large degree. The birth of many desirable qualities such as higher emotional recognition, improved focus, considerable thought clarity, and so on led the psychologists to conclude that such methods can prove immensely beneficial for those being treated for autism.
One of the most common disorders, anxiety can entirely disrupt the day-to-day life of an individual. Through virtual reality gadgets, the user’s reaction to certain made-up situations can be noted and studied. Discussions on the same can then lead to ideas to treat the issue. The cause of anxiety and its root can also be determined through such measures.
2.9. Parkinson’s Disease
A virtual reality headset highly stimulates the user’s motor and cognitive senses. Since those are the abilities worst affected by Parkinson’s disease, virtual reality therapy helps in gaining that balance. It improves their gait and the patients feel a general upward trend in the quality of their life. The virtual reality experience coupled with some physical therapy, along with psychology proves to be a combination effective enough to help most of those suffering from the disease.
Those undergoing rehabilitation can be given an enriching experience that encompasses their required environment for better conditions. Rehab can be an excruciatingly hard process to go through but with the help of virtual reality, some of the harsh impact can be lessened. It provides a way for those rehabilitating to go into the experience a bit more comfortably than usual.
3.1. Other Benefits of Virtual Reality Therapy
It is a misconception that virtual reality therapy helps only those with mental health issues. Even perfectly healthy individuals can undergo such procedures. It helps them to get more in tune with their senses and develop heightened abilities to excel in fields where they might feel difficulties. It also boasts of an impeccable track record in assisting with physical issues as well, as can be inferred from the information provided above.
3.2. Concerns Over Virtual Reality Therapy
Gradually becoming transparent is the fact that virtual reality will eventually pave a clear path for the future of psychology. It might even go on to become an inseparable part of it. But before this hypothesis turns into an actuality, we need to understand the implications of these actions. To paint a full picture of just how influential virtual reality can be in the field is highly necessary.
Since it is a relatively new technology that remains much unexplored, most of it falls in a morally and ethically gray area. Thus, the dos and don’ts might not be entirely obvious and can even be exploited. A substantial lack of professionals in the field also raises a concern for proper monitoring and usage.
Also, if the user becomes too attached to this virtual reality, they might start to feel a detachment from the real one. This can prove very unhealthy and entirely contrary to the reason for which it was administered in the first place. As discussed earlier, ideas such as these and the high costs of maintenance defer many from going for such methods. That defeats the very purpose of it. After long usage, users have also complained of motion sickness and mild dizziness. Some even complained of a detrimental effect on eyesight.
3.3. Final Words
With that being said, alternative studies are being conducted. If ways to conquer these odds are developed, virtual reality therapy can open gates to many unexplored opportunities. No matter what, technology cannot entirely achieve success of its own accord. It lacks a human touch. which is why fields such as psychology and therapy will always require a human, even if working vis-a-vis machinery.
A new, more joyous world with expanding horizons created with a sustainable relationship between technology and humanity awaits us.