Virtual reality to treat stress and anxiety

Virtual reality to treat stress and anxiety

Virtual reality to treat stress and anxiety

The World Health Organization (WHO) cites stress as the health epidemic of the 21st century due to its high prevalence rates. In anxiety, although it is difficult to establish exact data, the statistics available from the Ministry of Health and WHO points to a range of between 5% and 10% of the affected population, with more prevalence among women. Globally, it is estimated that the proportion of the population with anxiety disorders was 3.6% in 2015.

This means that approximately 1 in 10 people suffer symptoms of anxiety. In addition, there is also an increase in their visibility (Anxiety is a less and less taboo subject, indicating a positive trend). A curious and significant fact is that Google searches for up to 10 times more the term anxiety than depression, showing interest in these disorders, and the need for people to find solutions and alleviate the associated discomfort.

Technology, often pointed out as one of the factors that contribute to stress in westernized life (the management of social networks, the impact of screens on circadian rhythms …), can also be a powerful tool to better manage stress and treat your symptomatology. Virtual reality (VR) is demonstrating ample clinical evidence to help patients with different anxiety disorders thanks to its great immersion capacity.

What is virtual reality and how does it apply to psychology?

Virtual reality is the use of technology to generate virtual environments that create in the user the feeling of being immersed in it. In the case of Psious, these environments (3D designs or real videos) are multisensory (visual and auditory) and are created by us with the intention of treating different psychological pathologies. The idea is to generate a sense of presence: that the patient feels the same emotions and has the same thoughts and reactions that he would have in real life.

We know that our brain builds reality through the senses, and consequently, we have a great door to treat psychological pathologies through therapies that influence them (therapy with imagination, Ericksonian hypnosis, EMDR …). Now, we can add a new dimension through virtual reality to make them more effective and with faster learning, or bring them closer to patients who show difficulties by recreating with the imagination or with concentration problems.

Working with virtual reality is also very easy and the logistics you require are minimal: you only need the virtual reality glasses and a computer with the internet to access our platform. In addition, you can also add a third element: biofeedback, a device that captures the patient’s electrodermal response with the idea of ​​parameterizing their physiological activity. Biofeedback is not mandatory, but as you will see, being able to follow up with objective data is a point in favor of both the therapist and the patient.

Advantages of therapy with augmented reality vs. traditional therapies

  • If we compare virtual reality therapy with traditional therapy with the use of imagination, we find as points in favor that it is much more immersive (more sensory power), it provides more control to the therapist (you see at all times the same as the patient) and with the biofeedback we have the possibility of tracking the sessions and being able to make changes in the therapy.
  • If we compare it with the live exhibition, we find lower costs and more logistic ease, and in addition, the patient can be more reactive because it is a controlled environment. Consider, for example, treating a phobia: the patient will feel much more comfortable from the controlled space of a consultation.

Regarding the efficacy of treatment, clinical evidence shows that intervention with virtual reality is more effective than exposure in imagination and as effective as live exposure.

For all this, VR offers more effective, faster and less expensive treatments for the patient. At the same time, the possibility of having objective data on their evolution motivates them and increases their adherence.