Title: Virtual Reality in Psychiatry
Background: Virtual Reality in the field of medicine is making a considerable progress in psychiatry. Virtual reality exposure therapy (VRET) in particular can serve as a preferable solution for PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress disorder) patients who avoids or finds retrieving image difficult. Relevant studies were reviewed to identify the pros and cons of virtual reality technology applied to psychiatry and to determine its medical effect.
Methods: The application of virtual reality therapy to the field of psychiatry e.g., Panic Disorder (PD), Post-Traumatic Stress disorder(PTSD), Mild Cognitive Impairment(MCI), and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder(ADHD) and the strengths and weaknesses of VR therapy were investigated.
Results: VRET can serve as a preferable alternative to PTSD patients and can be more economical than actual exposure therapy as it is accessible, convenient and reproducible. However, the VRET can cause vertigo, nausea, vomiting, and reduced awareness, and there is a concern of abuse by uncertified practitioners.
For PTSD, according to the systematic review of VRET, the dropout rates of VRET is not higher than conventional exposure therapy, also 7 of 10 studies, the VRET is effective to PTSD patients, their effects were not different with conventional therapy as well. The important thing of VRET is that design contents scenario and establishing each hierarchy.For panic disorder, in respect with effectiveness, VR therapy compares favorably with conventional therapy. Conventional therapy versus VR therapy, it is revealed that similar therapy efficacy in exposure therapy, Interceptive exposure therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy. VR therapy is comparable to the conventional therapy in terms of efficacy. Treatments that had comparable clinical effect with the conventional VR therapy were exposure therapy, interoceptive exposure therapy, and cognitive behavior therapy.
For MCI, studies using VR to cognitive training treats general cognitive function, such as frontal function, memory, spatial navigation and so on. For ADHD, researchers and clinicians may expect lower dropout rates in treatment and positive results in cognitive training.
Conclusion: VR therapy was not inferior to conventional therapy in its application to psychiatry regarding PTSD, ADHD etc., and holds high potential as it enables convenient use of situations that cannot be easily reproduced in real life. However, technical support and effort are necessary to prevent its side effects including vertigo, reduced awareness and nausea.