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Black Mirror, virtual reality
Via Netflix

Scientists are using virtual reality to treat social anxiety

New research suggests VR-based therapy could help those suffering with the disorder

VR technology has come on leaps and bounds over the past few years, with virtual bands taking the internet by storm, immersive masturbation realms now a totally normal thing, and people living out love affairs in digital worlds. According to new research, virtual reality is now even entering the medical world, as a potential treatment for social anxiety.

A new study by the British Association for Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapies suggests that combining cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) with virtual reality technology could help alleviate anxiety symptoms IRL.

The study comprised of 15 patients with generalised social anxiety disorder, who attended up to 16 one-hour VR-CBT sessions once or twice a week. PsyPost reports that during each session, participants would navigate one of four virtual environments: a street, bus, cafe, or supermarket. Patients would then complete post-session questionnaires, and keep a diary about their social activity, anxiety, and paranoia after each treatment, and at a six-month follow-up.

While two patients dropped out of the study, the remaining participants reported a reduction in social anxiety and depressive symptoms, and an improvement in their quality of life following treatment.

Given the UK’s broken mental health system, and the fact that alternative anxiety treatments like CBD oil are on the rise, it’s encouraging to see new and innovative methods being used to research the debilitating disorder. Though more research is needed, it’s definitely a step in the right direction to remove the stigma surrounding mental health and help those in need.