Virtual reality helps to get rid of phobias

Virtual reality helps to get rid of phobias

Standard method of treatment of phobias – exposition therapy. The patient, under the supervision of a psychologist, occurs with what causes fear. Virtual reality technologies come to the rescue. For example, you can deal with the fear of public speaking, „speaking“ before the virtual audience.

Psychologist Uzef Shiban (Germany) with colleagues decided to check the effectiveness of virtual therapy for the treatment of arachnophobia (fear of spiders). Scientists conducted a study in which 41 people who suffered from arachnophobia participated (the severity of phobia was pre -assessed), and another 20 people who did not feel horror before spiders.

At first, the study participants showed a living spider (Chilean pink poultry agent 7.5 cm in size), which was from them at a distance of three meters in a transparent container, and asked to evaluate its size. Near the participants there was a lever that moved a container with a spider, and they needed to bring the container closer to their minimum possible distance and evaluate the level of fear on a scale from 0 to 10.

Then the volunteers put on a helmet of virtual reality, through which they showed four realistically looking spider of the same species, but much larger – about 30 cm. Such virtual sessions lasted 5 minutes and were spent four times.

Two weeks later, the researchers again contacted the participants and invited them to a second experiment with a spider. Many participants suffering from arachnophobia this time refused or did not come (22 out of 41 participants who were afraid of spiders, and 19 out of 20 healthy volunteers decided).

During the first experiment, almost all participants overestimated the real size of the spider. In full accordance with the saying “Fear of the Eyes is great”, which suffered from arachnophobia, it appeared more by 80% (healthy volunteers reassembled its size by 40%).

However, during the second experiment, participants with arachnophobia overestimated the size of the spider by 66% (assessments of healthy volunteers have not changed significantly),

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while the level of fear that they experienced decreased by 70%, which shows the effectiveness of exposition therapy using virtual reality technologies.

For more details see. Y. Shiban et al. Treatment Effect on Biasses in Size Estimate in Spider Phobia, Biological Psychology, March 2016.