The number of Americans with anxiety has skyrocketed from 7% in 2019 to 40% in 2021, according to the CDC. That means more than one in three Americans are experiencing a mental health condition since the pandemic began.
Sadly, the numbers are worse for younger Americans. The CDC and Census Bureau partnered over the summer of 2021 and found that 45% of U.S. residents between the ages of 18 and 29 years have anxiety and depression symptoms.
Many of those same young people might associate virtual reality with games and entertainment, but a new study published in Psychiatry Research (Monaghesh et al.) found that VR therapy can reduce anxiety and depression. According to the study, VR helps patients learn how to manage their symptoms in a simulation, which transfers into the real world.
VR uses a headset to immerse the wearer in a “virtual reality” that produces real-life experiences for the user. Imagine you have anxiety over public speaking. VR could create a situation where you are speaking in front of thousands of people, without having to recruit crowds to help with your anxiety. Your therapy becomes more real than just speaking with a therapist about your fears, anxiety or depression.
Mental health therapists are already testing various VR programs in their offices. However, a limitation of this early VR adaption is that patients still must physically go into an office.
Samsung has developed the VR mobile app, Fearless, which helps people overcome that fear in the comfort of their own home. The app responds to voice volume, speaking pace, eye contact and heart rate, providing feedback and evaluating progress.
AppliedVR is a VR option for health professionals to use with their patients struggling with anxiety, stress and pain. This VR program contains more than 40 immersive environments, including meditation and breathing exercises, “distractional” games and virtual visits.
Aleknavičius, K. (2022, April 4). Virtual reality plays role in Mental Health Treatment. Healio. Retrieved February 2, 2023, from https://www.healio.com/news/psychiatry/20220404/virtual-reality-plays-role-in-mental-health-treatment