Reduce stress with VR

Virtual Reality gives a powerful experience of immersion in another environment. VRelax uses this principle to help people relax. It is applied as supportive tool in the treatment of psychiatric problems and selfmanagement of stress related problems.

VRelax consists of interconnected 360 degrees videos of relaxing environments, such as nature landscapes, a coral reef, a drone flight, a scuba diving experience with dolphins, a mountain meadow with animals, and a session of Tibetan sound bowls. You can navigate through the environments by looking at hotspots within your field of view. In some of the environments, interactive visual elements are added in order to enhance attention.

Relaxation for psychiatric problems

People with psychiatric problems often have an increased stress level. This makes it more difficult for them to recover from their psychiatric problems. Relaxation exercises, for instance visualization of being in a nice environment or meditation, can have a positive effect on the level of stress. However, it is not easy to do these relaxation exercises when you are anxious, worried, or psychotic. VR may help to make relaxation a lot easier. Watching a relaxing VR film and interacting with a soothing VR environment does not require much effort. With VR, it is easier to reduce stress. We investigate if VR relaxation is effective for people with psychiatric problems. We compare the effects of VRelax with standard relaxation exercises.

Pilot studies

In a first pilot project, 30 patients who were admitted to clinical units of the UMCG Department of Psychiatry, participated in a feasibility study with one VR film. Based on these experiences, VRelax was further developed. Currently, a second pilot study is ongoing. Fifty people will participate, who receive outpatient treatment for depression, anxiety or psychosis. They will use both VRelax and standard relaxation exercises. Immediate and short-term effects on subjective stress will be compared.

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