Can Virtual Reality be the Answer to Tackling Paranoid Thoughts?
Paranoia is like a virus that slowly eats into your brain till the only thing left is fear and hatred. Many people across the world suffer from various forms of paranoia, phobias, and psychosis. Unable to handle normal social settings, these people constantly live in fear and are a burden not only on their dependants but also on themselves. By being unable to interact with other humans, they are deprived of the right treatment as well. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a combination of both cognitive and behavior therapy that is used to help patients address current issues through exposure based therapeutic exercises, where patients put the doctor’s suggestions into practice in a controlled environment.
In a study published in The Lancet Psychiatric, the use of Virtual Reality (VR) based CBT proved to be effective in reducing the feeling of paranoia, anxiety, and fear in patients as compared to those undergoing normal CBT. The study involved 116 patients, half of whom were in the control group undergoing regular CBT while the other half, apart from the regular treatment also had sessions of VR CBT. Regular treatment involved administration of antipsychotic medicines, regular sessions with the psychiatrist and support from a psychiatric nurse.
The VR CBT sessions involved the patients wearing a VR headset which put them in four different social scenarios; on a bus, in a street, in a café, and in a store. Each scenario was designed to fit the specific issues of the patient, with the doctor controlling the number of avatars (people in the VR), how they looked, and how they behaved. After the course of the treatment, it was seen that the patients exposed to the VR CBT showed an increase in the amount of time they spent with people and a reduction in their anxiety and paranoia.