Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Virtual Reality as Therapy

Virtual reality is more than a phase; it appears to be the future of how we immerse ourselves in gaming, and communication. Facebook’s Oculus Rift has the reputation of being used as a media outlet specifically for video games. Now what if I told you the Oculus Rift is being used to conquer people’s greatest fears. That’s right, the Oculus Rift (and other forms of virtual reality) is being used to treat people with Post-traumatic stress disorders (PTSD).

PTSD is a very real and concerning disorder in the world. Most commonly found in veterans returning from war, PTSD victims have been traumatized by a certain event in the past and are still reliving it everyday. High levels of stress, poor sleep cycles and depression are the most common symptoms. The amazing thing about the Oculus is that it “can mentally transport users to another time, another place, another state of mind.” Virtual reality devices like the Oculus expose a PTSD patient to a their trigger. When exposed to a PTSD moment through the Oculus they are guided through the anxiety and fear. The repetition of this process will eventually lead to a point where the patient no longer has PTSD.

The oculus isn’t only helping those affected by PTSD. In fact, the data of the responses to virtual reality (VR) is providing scientists, and doctors an immense amount of information that can be used to study mental illness. The intent to use VR as a means of treating patients with PTSD has also led to programs like SimCoach. SimCoach is a new platform being developed at USC. Again, its main use is to help and treat people impacted by PTSD. PTSD patients can log in online and pick from a variety of different VR characters with distinctive war backgrounds to discuss how they’re feeling post-war. The personalities you interact with are completely fabricated and computerized. VR is slowly changing how we will cope with emotions in the future. The progression of these therapy methods foreshadow a less lonely future filled with all kinds of communication, all in the interest of helping patients with mental illnesses. With the aid of VR, it is becoming easier to collect data about what a PTSD patient goes through. This will eventually lead to further progression and wellness for anyone suffering from a mental illness.

Overlooked by the article are the success rates and amount of people who are actually trying the VR methods of therapy. I would like to know more personal stories about the people who use the treatment. I would also like to know whether VR therapy could help smaller anxieties opposed to war, like fear of flying and social anxiety. Lastly I’d like to know where the research is going and how it’s being used. Are there any community groups for people using this type of therapy?


  1. I think this is a very interesting and inspiring article. It provides hope for the future especially for the war veterans. One of the points in the article that peaked my interest was the fact the the Oculus Rift can change the mental state of PTSD victims. This is an unbelievable innovation and can be life changing for the people suffering from PTSD. The fact that the Oculus Rift can bring the victim to the trigger point of their PTSD and then gradually lessen the emotions and pain that they feel is key to helping PTSD go away. I also like the idea of innovating and developing technology to address the mental disease of PTSD. I think it is a step in the right direction when it comes to paying back the veterans for all of their hard work in protecting our country. They did their job when they were overseas and now it is our job to help them to find normalcy when they come home. I would also have liked to learn of some personal stories from victims of PTSD who have used the Oculus Rift and see how it affected them. If it cured them of their PTSD, or even just made it less severe, than this is a great thing for the future of war veterans and other people who suffer from PTSD. PTSD is a serious issue that should not be overlooked. It is good to see the use of technology to address this issue to hopefully change the lives of many people who suffer from PTSD.

  2. After reading this article I am astonished by the amazing technology that the world is creating. I previously believed that virtual reality was only being used for media purposes. Little did I know that this machine could help heal anyone suffering from PTSD. I liked how you questioned whether or not the Oculus Rift could be used for less severe anxieties. From what it seems, the Oculus and others forms of virtual reality are only in the infancy phase when it comes to solving medical problems. Like my fellow classmate Rich stated, it’s a great thing that VR is being used to treat war victims, we owe it to them for protecting us. I was also intrigued by the idea of programs like SimCoach. Soon there could be a specific SimCoach tailored for the personalities of anyone suffering from anxieties. As much as something like SimCoach and VR is amazing, it is also concerning on multiple levels. I fear that artificial interactions could eventually distance ourselves from reality, and from there, we would be dealing with a whole range of new problems.


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