Virtual Reality for mental health
Virtual Reality (VR) is a way to enter other worlds. A computer generates an environment that you can experience in 3D with a head mounted display. The virtual environment can be built with a computer or filmed with a special camera. The environment is everywhere, you are immersed in a virtual world. It feels like you are there, just real.
More than a game
At the Department of Psychiatry of the University Medical Center Groningen we develop and test VR interventions. We have VR treatments for: paranoia, social anxiety, agoraphobia, reactive aggression, social cognition, and stress management. People who are too anxious to go shopping can practice in our virtual supermarket until their distress is gone. Others get paranoid if people in the street are looking at them. They can reduce their paranoia by doing exercises in virtual streets. Aggression is difficult to control, but management of aggression and anger can be improved by virtual role-plays of provocative social situations.
Why not in the real world?
The real world is uncontrollable. Situations that you want to practice may not occur when you need them, or are unexpectedly too difficult. In VR, we can plan everything. You know exactly what can happen and what situation you will save for next time. And you can practice similar situations over and over again. Another advantage is that there is a trainer next to you, who helps to select the right exercises and can give feedback.
What VR treatments are there?
Anxiety disorders can be treated with VR, including phobias, social anxiety, panic disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder. At the Department of Psychiatry we’re developing and testing new treatments. We have treatments for: psychosis, social anxiety, agoraphobia, aggression, social cognition and reducing stress.