Disorders and Treatment
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Currently, virtual reality technologies are used mainly for games and training purposes. A group of developers and engineers, however, believe that VR could become a useful way to help treat mental disorders as well.
Researchers at King's College London are testing VR as a tool for psychologists to aid their patients' therapy and recovery. The current line of research focuses on desensitization and "confrontation" management techniques where the virtual world can be utilized to subject patients to things that might aggravate their condition without the danger of real-world confrontations.
An example of how this might work can be taken from a research line involving bipolar patients. Simulations of things that might trigger a "switch" between poles, often involving confrontation with anxieties can be used to challenge the patient. Stress activities for the patient might include being in a busy public place or being approached by a stranger asking directions.
The researchers involved believe that the implications for VR are wide. It could be used to treat phobias, teach anger management, helping schizophrenics distinguish between hallucinations and reality, and more. Even therapists could become "avatars" in the virtual world, acting as guides to help the patient during the experience.
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