Research among the general population of the netherlands has revealed that one in 25 of them will at some point in their life suffer an anxiety disorder. panic attacks are a typical marker for these disorders. People suffering with this infliction will avoid being in places that invoke a panic attack, in some extreme cases leading an isolated life indoors.
The researcher conducting the trials want to determine whether a controlled, gradual increase of exposure to the panic inducing places within a computer generated visual environment can be benificial to these people. A busy market place could be simulated for instance, combined with the use of immersive 3D glasses.
Current treatment consists of therapeutic coaching, sometimes in combined with medication, to eventually lead to the moment when a client has to confront the feared situation. It turns out that this last step is one bridge to far according to these scientists.
They claim exposure through virtual reality has a number of advantages. First off there is a controlled environment in which exposure to the anxiety can slowly be increased. It also has a higher level of privacy. They believe a higher number of people will be willing to get into a treatment program.
The department of clinical psychology at the University of Amsterdam has already been offering treatments for airplane-fear and fear of height along the same principles. Although research into the application of virtual reality for the treatment of street fear is still in its infancy, the first results are promising, say the researchers.
Source : telegraaf.nl translation : mjw
Read more for the original dutch article