Virtual Reality Therapy in Mental Health

In recent years, mental healthy issues have gradually become a major challenge for society. According to the prediction by World Health Organization (WHO), mental disorder will be the leading cause of global disease burden in 2030. In low-income countries, 75% to 85% patients remain untreated and nearly 1 million patients commit suicide each year. Mental disorders include anxiety disorders, depression, bipolar disorder, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), etc, which seriously effects patients’ life. Lacking of trained health care providers and psychotherapy resource are the major factors impeding the provision of effective mental health care. Now, experts confirmed that virtual reality technology can used to solve the lacking of mental treatment resource.

Virtual reality technology is not limited to diagnosed patients or specific stages of the patient care process, but can be used for daily mental health adjustment and assist patients at any stage through initial assessment, diagnosis, treatment and follow-up care. In-home VR therapy is feasible, and even in specific cases, the physical distance between patient and therapist can enhance the effect of treatment. Interacting through virtual avatars can make patients feel less “judgment” but more privacy, which increases comfort and safety during the processing of treatment. Virtual environment inspires craving, physical responses, and influences emotional states, attention, cognition and brain activity. Patients will more like to cooperate the treatment with the help of virtual reality technology.

Brennan Spiegel from Cedars-Sinai Medical Center Laboratory in Los Angeles, one of the world’s largest medical VR projects, published an article in Scientific American shows that the psychotherapy application of VR technology has now reached a tipping point. The technology is cost-effective enough, the quality good enough, and scientific enough, to seriously consider using VR to improve mental health at scale through family therapy.

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