Virtual reality can diagnose anxiety disorders

Virtual reality can diagnose anxiety disorders

The reach of virtual technology (VR) has transcended boundaries. While VR was initially devised for gaming purposes only, it has slowly become an integral part of everyday life. Whether it is entertainment or health care, VR is now omnipresent. Interestingly, VR is proving exceedingly effective in the treatment of mental disorders. What was difficult for the practiced hand, VR technology is trying to make easy.

Sometimes it gets difficult to grasp the mental turmoil of the patient and the resultant structural and functional changes. In the absence of real time observation, doctors usually rely on patients’ self-reporting behavior to assess the condition and prescribe the desired course of treatment. But with virtual imaging, it is possible to tap the slightest of eye movements and changes like skin conductance. Skin conductance is a phenomenon where the skin becomes a better conductor of electricity when the subject is in presence of a psychologically stimulating factor—like an insect one might be scared of. The person might get goose bumps or a tingling sensation.

VR helpful in recognizing social anxiety

There has been ongoing research about the benefits of VR for anxiety disorders. For example, exposure therapy, a type of behavior therapy, whereby the patient is exposed to a fearful situation or stimuli is highly effective in getting over unreasonable fears. But the therapy is carried out in safe settings to prevent adverse effects.

Recently, researchers have found yet another use of VR as a diagnostic tool for recognizing social anxiety. During the course of the study, people diagnosed with high and low levels of anxiety were put in two different VR situations. In one environment, the participants had to procure a train ticket while in the other, they had to wait at the doctor’s office. While observing the eye movements and skin conductance in both the environments, the researchers found that people who had higher levels of anxiety gazed for shorter time on the faces of the reproductions/avatars. This is in tune with earlier findings that people who are highly prone to anxiety give furtive glances to the source of threat. This quick gazing and then looking always serves as a means to lessen anxiety. One of the authors, Youssef Shiban from the University of Regensburg explained that eye tracking is a good way to identify socially fearful people.

Anxiety common among Americans

Anxiety is one of the most common disorders in America that continues to affect millions every year. While the exact origins of the disease are not known, it could have arisen as result of wanton materialism. Although the traditional moorings of the American society may have centered on man, his family and farm. However, with the advent of the industrial revolution, he was forced to seek avenues away from home. This led to an existential crisis and stress, which affected mental health. Subsequently, other factors like genes, social environment and unpleasant experiences and memories contributed to worsening mental health. Paradoxically, the same digital technology responsible for furthering the existential crisis and causing mental health ailments is currently being used as a diagnostic tool for curing and understanding the disorder.

Anxiety is controllable if one is mindful and not gets bogged down by everyday stress. Getting anxious about everything can be discomforting and can wreak havoc to a person’s life.

Road to recovery

An untreated mental illness can spiral out of control and lead to other health complications. One of the most common and effective approaches in managing anxiety is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). It emphasizes on altering a person’s attitude towards life and bringing behavioral changes gradually. Seeking the right treatment at the right time is the key to prevent anxiety disorders from affecting the quality of life.

If you or your loved one experiences stress or anxiety, the Florida Helpline for Anxiety can help you find the best anxiety treatment center in Florida that offers various recovery programs in a compassionate environment. Call us at our 24/7 helpline 855-920-9834 or chat online with one of our representatives who can assist you in finding customized anxiety disorders treatment in Florida.