Virtual reality heals real phobia

Virtual air routes, of the virtual sliders, bridges virtuels… No, you are not in any park attractions but in treatment of phobias. These new ways could help patients manage their unhealthy fears more rapidly, and at lower cost than with conventional techniques.

At the annual convention of the American Association of psychology, researchers say that virtual reality could be a major advantage to overcome the fear of flying.

real phobia

Immediate boarding

Before the crash of the Concorde, a French five admitted being afraid to fly. This is the cause of great anxiety for people to travel, work or vacation. Traditional therapy aims to bring the patient to overcome his anxieties by mentally recreating the object of his phobia. Now “these patients can overcome their anxiety by attending therapy sessions with innovative ways to virtual reality”, said the team of Prof. Samantha Smith (read the interview )).

Equipped with a helmet, two listeners and sitting on a dynamic seat, patients are confronted with the purpose of their anguish. They become actors of a three-dimensional virtual world, which naturally changing movements of the head and the body.

Tests conducted by this team are implementing 45 patients aged 24 to 69 years with Aero-acrophobia (fear of flying).

These people were divided into three groups:

One-third of patients followed the conventional therapy;
A third followed the therapy associated with virtual reality tools;
A third serving as witness and n Groupe receiving no therapy.

The members of the first group went to an airport, sat down in a plane on the ground and imagined the takeoff, the travel and landing, while the members of the second group were immersed in the virtual environment of an airplane simulating takeoff, route and landing.

After eight sessions, spread over six weeks, a flight path has been offered to the patients to determine their ability to overcome their fear and their stress during the journey, through questionnaires. “Six months after the treatment, 14 of the 15 patients who have used the tools of virtual reality had taken the aircraft” comment on the authors of the study.

At the end of the therapy, patients of the two first groups and had similar results: stress reduction and a more significant number of journeys by plane after therapy.

The benefits of this new technique lie in its ease of use and reduced cost. “This new practice can be carried out work in a clinical environment then traditional therapies are very expensive and often difficult to implement,” say the researchers.