Virtual Reality May be Useful Technology for Treating PTSD Sufferers

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is a pervasive mental illness, with up to eight percent of the population experiencing it at some point in their lives, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Now, virtual reality (VR) equipment is reportedly being used to treat PTSD sufferers as a way to help them confront and process traumatic situations in a safe environment.

Wide Variety of Causes

PTSD typically results from a traumatic experience. For example, a soldier could develop it after a harrowing fight on the battlefield or it could affect a woman who was abused by her spouse or a child who experienced severe bullying. The VA estimates that 60 percent of all men and 50 percent of all women experience a significant trauma in their lives, although not all will develop PTSD as a result. Overall, the disorder affects about 5.2 million people each year.

VR is Just One Treatment Option

With such a significant number of PTSD cases, there's a huge application for VR technology if it proves to be an effective treatment. Research is still needed, but the VA says that prolonged exposure therapy is already an accepted form of treatment. This therapy method prepares PTSD sufferers to confront upsetting situations by educating them about their condition and teaching them techniques such as proper breathing to calm anxiety. VR technology could be added as a step to confront a situation in a safe manner before being exposed to it in the real world.

Other forms of treatment for PTSD include cognitive/behavioral therapy, stress inoculation training, and anti-anxiety, antidepressant, or anti-psychotic medication. If you have PTSD symptoms, which include nightmares, flashbacks to the traumatic incident, and panic attacks, talk to a professional about an appropriate treatment plan tailored to your needs. VR technology for PTSD treatment hasn't been widely adopted yet, but there are plenty of effective ways to manage the disorder.