Virtual Reality Exposure Therapy (VRET)

Virtual reality exposure therapy (VRET) is a type of treatment that uses realistic fake aversive stimuli to increase stress resilience and control negative symptoms. VRET is used in treatment for phobias, anxiety disorders, addictions, and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Patients can be 'exposed' to the fearful stimuli in a way that seems real but isn't. The patient adapts to the stimulus and the fear response and negative reactions decrease.

For PTSD as a result of military action the patient will describe the environment to the therapist. A computer program will create a similar landscape where the situations occurred. Audio, vibrations, and even smells are used in order to make the virtual environment as close to the real one as possible. The patient will then virtually be in this environment and will retell their traumatic memories to a therapist who is helping and guiding them throughout the process. After doing this repeatedly the stress response, fear, and anxiety will decrease or disappear because the patient is in a safe place while the traumatic event is going on virtually. For phobias, virtual representations of the fear stimulus (heights, spiders, etc) can decrease and eliminate the fear response.

This is a recent and very promising type of therapy.

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