Have you ever peered over the edge of a building and began to feel dizzy or shaky?Maybe you know someone who gets fidgety and anxious every time they fly on a plane.

For many of us, certain situations can set off an irrational fear response or cause debilitating anxiety.

Survivors of trauma, those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), can have these fleeting moments of anxiety magnified exponentially. A crowded city street might trigger a soldier’s memory of a past battle or roadside bomb, making normal interactions difficult or impossible. Victims of assault might by seized by fear after seeing a stranger on a quiet street.

Recovering from PTSD and overcoming anxiety disorders is challenging, time-consuming work; it’s also essential for the many people who suffer from these conditions.

One unlikely tool that could make it easier for thousands of patients to get the help they need is virtual reality (VR) technology, which can mentally transport users to another time, another place, another state of mind.

You slip on a headset and headphones and all of a sudden see and can move around in a three dimensional world, wherever the program is set. You could explore an underwater world or ride a roller coaster; you could experience the very thing that triggers your debilitating anxiety — all while guided by a professional to help you get past that fear.

 

An Emory University study was published in last month’s Harvard Review of Psychiatry

According to The New Yorker, in 2007, the Department of Defense funded a series of clinical trials based around a program called “Virtual Iraq,” which was adapted from a real game called Full Spectrum Warrior and which allowed soldiers to undergo “exposure therapy” in their own homes. Another experiment in 1997 focused around a similar program called “Virtual Vietnam.”

 

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Presidential candidate Will Conway in the hit Netflix series “House of Cards” uses a virtual reality headset

 

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