Effectiveness of VR for Psychiatric Disorders


In this paper, we conduct a literature survey on various virtual reality (VR) treatments in psychiatry. We collected 36 studies that used VR to provide clinical trials or therapies for patients with psychiatric disorders. In order to gain a better understanding of the management of pain and stress, we first investigate VR applications for patients to alleviate pain and stress during immersive activities in a virtual environment. VR exposure therapies are particularly effective for anxiety, provoking realistic reactions to feared stimuli. On top of that, exposure therapies with simulated images are beneficial for patients with psychiatric disorders such as phobia and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Moreover, VR environments have shown the possibility of changing depression, cognition, even social functions. We review empirical evidence from VR-based treatments on psychiatric illnesses such as dementia, mild cognitive impairment (MCI), schizophrenia and autism. Through cognitive training and social skill training, rehabilitation through VR therapies helps patients to improve their quality of life. Recent advances in VR technology also demonstrate potential abilities to address cognitive and functional impairments in dementia. In terms of the different types of VR systems, we discuss the feasibility of the technology within different stages of dementia as well as the methodological limitations. Although there is room for improvement, its widespread adoption in psychiatry is yet to occur due to technical drawbacks such as motion sickness and dry eyes, as well as user issues such as preoccupation and addiction. However, it is worth mentioning that VR systems relatively easily deliver virtual environments with well-controlled sensory stimuli. In the future, VR systems may become an innovative clinical tool for patients with specific psychiatric symptoms.


Park, M. J., Kim, D. J., Lee, U., Na, E. J., & Jeon, H. J. (2019). A Literature Overview of Virtual Reality (VR) in Treatment of Psychiatric Disorders: Recent Advances and Limitations. Frontiers in psychiatry, 10, 505. https://dx.doi.org/10.3389%2Ffpsyt.2019.00505