Thanks to the stresses of modern life, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) threatens to overload health care and social support systems worldwide.
Sadly, experts acknowledge that treatment interventions are insufficient. Current treatment philosophy involves long-term intervention that often cannot be delivered because of logistics or costs.
Consequently, new approaches to treatment are relying on technology, such as virtual reality, to alleviate the psychologically damaging effects of PTSD.
PTSD is common in soldiers returning from combat duty and may also result from sexual or physical assault, imprisonment or hostage situations, terrorism, surviving an accident or disaster, or diagnosis of a life-threatening illness.
Exposure therapy has been recognized as a highly promising method for treating patients with PTSD.
Rather than relying on patients’ visualization skills to “relive” the traumatic experience, technological strategies such as virtual reality (VR) provide a controlled environment in which patients can experience a situation or scenario while learning to cope with their emotional responses.
Virtual reality has the potential to play an important role in treating survivors of mass casualty disasters, for example. Countries can implement this tool and the available handheld VR technology as part of a comprehensive plan to respond to catastrophe survivors’ mental health needs.
“We are so fortunate in being able to learn from our patients who give us invaluable feedback and important information so that we may continuously improve treatment protocols,” says Dr. Brenda K. Wiederhold, PhD, MBA, BCIA.
“We thank those who have shared their memories and experiences for the benefit of others.”
These innovative solutions are explored in a special issue of Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, a peer-reviewed journal published by Mary Ann Liebert, Inc. The special issue is available free online.