“Virtual Reality Exposure Therapy as Part of a CBT Treatment Program for Anxiety Disorders: Moth Phobia Case Study ”

2005年12月10日 日本認知療法学会 第5回 名古屋

CyberPsychology is a field that has been developing in research labs around the world for more than 20 years. With continuing advances in technology, there has been a steady decrease in the cost of the specialized equipment required for CyberPsychology. This has created the situation where the use of technology in psychiatric applications is no longer confined to the laboratory. This is giving rise to Cyber Clinics which utilize technologies such at the internet, multimedia, or virtual reality as part of the treatment program for patients.

In a clinical setting, virtual reality is used as a tool to assist with cognitive and behavioral therapies by providing a means to do exposure to feared objects or situations. With the use of virtual reality, a patient can be immersed into a computer generated world that is relevant to their particular disorder. For example, someone with a fear of public speaking can be placed into a virtual auditorium with an audience and actually feel the anxiety and physical sensations that they would have when giving a real speech.

Virtual reality has been used to treat a variety of disorders including: simple phobias (airplanes, heights, spiders, moths, thunder, lightning, closed spaces); panic disorder with agoraphobia (supermarket, subway, elevator, open courtyard); social anxiety disorder; PTSD; and body image disorders. The use of virtual reality to conduct exposure therapy is particularly suited to situations that are difficult to control or experience under normal circumstances. For instance in vivo exposure to thunder and lightning can only occur during the summer months. By using virtual reality, the patient can be exposed to an anxiety provoking encounter with thunder and lightning at any time.

This presentation will describe a novel use of virtual reality exposure therapy for a patient with a simple phobia for moths. A virtual environment that allows the patient to experience moths and butterflies flying in an outdoor setting was constructed. As the patient was immersed into the environment, their anxiety was recorded subjectively (0-100 SUD) and physiologically (skin temperature, respiration rate, heart rate, and skin conductivity). After several sessions of virtual reality exposure therapy, the patient’s subjective level of anxiety, and the physiological measures both indicated that their fear had subsided greatly. This use of virtual reality, along with standard cognitive and behavioral techniques, allowed the patient to make significant changes in their lifestyle, enabling them to leave their house and go to the convenience store in the evening time.