Virtual Reality Exposure Therapy Can Help PTSD

Exposure therapy is considered to be a behavioral treatment for PTSD. Exposure therapy targets behaviors that people engage in (most often avoidance) in response to situations or thoughts and memories that are viewed as frightening or anxiety-provoking.3 For example, a rape survivor may begin to avoid relationships or going out on dates for fear that she will be attacked again.

If not addressed, avoidance behavior can become more extreme and interfere with a person’s quality of life. Avoidance can also make PTSD symptoms stick around longer or even become worse. Because people with anxiety and phobias often avoid certain situations, thoughts, and emotions, they don’t have the opportunity to learn that these situations may not be quite as dangerous or threatening as they seem. Avoidance also interferes with people working through their thoughts, memories, and emotions.

In VRET, an individual is immersed in a computer-generated virtual environment, either through the use of a head-mounted display device or entry into a computer-automated room where images are present all around.1

This environment can be programmed to help the person directly confront feared situations or locations that may not be safe to encounter in real life.