Virtual Reality Exposure Therapy

Is it safe for those with video game addiction?

For those coping with specific social phobias, anxiety, and post traumatic stress, the treatment of choice often includes some form of exposure therapy, or systematic desensitization as a way to reduce the debilitating nature of these conditions. During an exposure therapy session, a trained clinician gently guides an individual through a traumatic event which allows for the re-processing and examination of the thoughts, feelings and emotions associated with a given situation. The difference between Exposure Therapy and Virtual Reality Exposure Therapy or VRET for short, is in the method used to guide an individual through this process.

Instead of simply using the mind’s eye, or simulating the actual environment used to recreate the troubling situation to be processed, VRET allows an individual to place themselves in a virtual environment that evokes the sights, sounds, smells and virtual feel of an environment which closely resembles the feared situation. This allows for the safe processing of memories, feelings, and emotions in a controlled setting. Even though VRET seems promising, future research is needed to better understand the risks and benefits of VRET, especially in those who may show signs of video game addiction.