Can virtual reality therapy be used to treat post traumatic stress disorder?

Evidence suggests that VRET may be effective in treating the symptoms of PTSD. There are several studies that have shown that VRET is related to a reduction in the severity of symptoms in both PTSD and depression and that, as the number of VRET sessions increases, the effectiveness of reducing symptoms also increases. Unlike specific phobias, for which virtual reality exposure therapy (VRET) is an effective treatment, there is still uncertainty regarding the usefulness of VRET for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Therefore, this meta-analysis investigated the effectiveness of VRET for PTSD compared to active and waiting list comparators.

A literature search yielded nine controlled studies with 296 participants (124 VRET, 172 controls). The differences between the conditions with respect to the main outcome of the severity of PTSD symptoms and the secondary outcome of depressive and anxiety symptoms after treatment were calculated using Hedges' g. Compared to the waitlist controls, the VRET showed a significantly better result for PTSD symptoms (g %3D 0.62, p %3D). There were no significant differences between VRET and active comparators in terms of PTSD symptoms (g %3D 0.25, p %3D).

No significant effects were seen on anxiety symptoms. These findings suggest that VRET may be as effective as active comparators for patients with PTSD. However, the results should be interpreted with caution due to the limited number of trials and the significant number of military service members studied, predominantly male. Additional controlled trials, considering a wider range of trauma types and a balanced gender, are needed to strengthen the evidence.

While more controlled studies are needed, many studies demonstrate the effectiveness of VR-EBT in treating PTSD in veterans. The use of virtual reality in the treatment of PTSD requires trained mental health doctors who can monitor reactions to virtual reality therapy. Counselors and other mental health professionals should be aware of developments in virtual reality technology and be trained to adopt this promising method of treatment. Veterans Affairs doctors prescribed traditional psychotherapy for his combat-related post-traumatic stress disorder.

Unfortunately, many veterans suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and more than half of those diagnosed go untreated. By Matthew Tull, PhD Matthew Tull, PhD is a professor of psychology at the University of Toledo and specializes in post-traumatic stress disorder. Virtual reality exposure therapy (VRET) and augmented reality exposure therapy (ARET) are digitally assisted psychotherapies that can improve the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) by increasing the patient's sense of presence during exposure therapy.

Carole Gitlin
Carole Gitlin

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