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In com­bi­na­tion with cog­ni­tive be­havioural ther­apy, ex­po­sure ther­apy is one of the more com­mon and successful ways to treat se­ri­ous pho­bias and anx­i­ety dis­or­ders. It works by build­ing up a tol­er­ance, so to speak, for the thing that scares you. So if you were an arachno­phobe, ex­po­sure ther­apy might be­gin with look­ing at spi­ders in pic­tures, then movies, then in cap­tiv­ity, and on and on un­til even­tu­ally you aren’t crip­plingly scared of spi­ders any­more.

VR can con­trib­ute to this process with sim­u­lated ex­po­sure, giv­ing ther­a­pists the abil­ity to recre­ate prob­lem sce­nar­ios and dy­nam­i­cally adapt them to the pa­tient’s needs. So far the tech­nol­ogy has been suc­cess­fully in­te­grated into a mul­ti­tude of treat­ment pro­grams for dis­or­ders, in­clud­ing arachno­pho­bia, fear of flying, anx­i­ety, all the way through to ma­jor de­pres­sion and bat­tle­fieldin­duced PTSD. Sev­eral ma­jor com­pa­nies al­ready spe­cialise in VR ther­apy and coun­selling, and we can ex­pect many more to pop up as the tech be­comes bet­ter un­der­stood and more widely avail­able.

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