While post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other stress-related illnesses have been treated using exposure therapy since ages, relying on the therapy to recreate the traumatic experiences is challenging, at best. And more often than not, patients are either unwilling or just unable to do so. Virtual reality (VR), the latest in treating psychological disorders, helps in breaking down these barriers while treating various mental health disorders.
The number of people diagnosed with neurological conditions and mental illness has grown at an alarming pace over the past few decades. According to the World Health Organization, cases of depression and anxiety disorders have increased by 200 million from the 1990s to 2013. Almost 25 percent of people in the United States, which translates to one in four people, have a diagnosable mental disorder. The remaining 75 percent experience significant stress and anxiety during the course of their lives. The fact that most of us do experience varying degrees of stress and anxiety ranging from relatively mild to severe and absolutely debilitating, depending on the reasons, is evidence for these figures.
Psychological conditions and mental disorders not only affect our daily lives, but also cost a bomb. An estimated $467 billion in the U.S. and $2.5 trillion globally is lost in productivity and medical expenses related to mental health disorders.
With VR like Bravemind, clinicians can moderate the surroundings helping patients to experience environments similar to the past upsetting events gradually rather than abruptly as in exposure therapy. With VR, the doctors can actually control the stimuli while monitoring the responses of the patients on a real time basis, through advanced brain imaging.
The VR technology, which was earlier deemed to be unfeasible owing to the costs, complexity and the clinician’s unfamiliarity with handling the VR equipment, is gaining increasing acceptance in the consumer marketplace also. Introduction of new low-cost and usable product offerings will only drive the acceptance and adoption levels increasingly higher. Perhaps the day when each household will own a VR device, realizing its importance and usefulness, beyond the world of digital and online games, is not too far.
Helping people understand
Another problem related to psychological disorders that the VR is trying to solve is the understanding of it and creating empathy in people who have no idea about the effects of such disorders. Visualise, a London-based VR studio is trying to make people empathize with their near and dear ones suffering from mental disorders through their project, “In My Shoes: Dancing with Myself.”
The project aims to spread awareness about the existing neurological conditions and use a mix of 3D audio-production and 360-degree video techniques to provide the viewer with the affected person’s perspective of living with mental illness and disorders on a daily basis. Henry Stuart, chief executive officer of the company, is positive that “empathy VR” or getting people to understand the plight of people with mental disorders is indeed one of the key areas where VR can help in mental health beyond treatment.
Road to recovery
Empathizing with those suffering from mental health disorders and leading them to the path of recovery can help them embrace a better tomorrow. If you or your loved one is struggling with anxiety or any other mental health disorder, you can contact the 24/7 Mental Health Helpline for information on the best mental health facilities. You can either chat online or call our 24/7 helpline number 855-653-8178 to get in touch with the finest mental health therapist who can customize rehab programs especially for you.