VR Trials for Treating Anxiety

As NDIS support workers on the Gold Coast, we are aware that not every disability is visible. Anxiety is one of the most crippling invisible illnesses and can severely impact people’s ability to live a fulfilled life. So it is always good to see when new treatments are being introduced, especially those that do not rely heavily on drug therapy. Although medication has a place, alternatives like virtual reality could prove life-changing for many individuals with anxiety.

New VR Study

The concept of sensory rooms has been around for a long time. Often used in the care of children with complex or neuro-diverse needs. These rooms are set up to offer ways to manage when people feel distressed or unable to regulate their emotions. The room would be set up with auditory, visual and tactile objects that enable people to feel calm, and safe, and find something that helps them manage their feelings or emotions at the time. Now, a new study has been launched that is looking at using virtual reality. Using the same concept of sensory rooms, adults with neuro-developmental disabilities are able to find relief from some of the symptoms of depression and anxiety using the specially designed tools on offer.

Researchers Moving with Technology 

The researchers have said that “While there is some consensus in the literature of the perceived benefit of traditional sensory rooms, requirements of physical spaces present logistical issues. This potentially limits access for a range of users, particularly people with disability who may have limited access to required resources. Quantitative findings indicated improvements in anxiety and depression from pre to post, with changes in sensory processing, but no significant changes in adaptive behaviour or personal well-being. Qualitative findings indicated that participants perceived there was a positive impact on anxiety as well as enhanced social participation.”

Positive Signs 

At this stage, the trial is relatively small, with just 31 adults included, and they have a variety of developmental disabilities. By using virtual reality, any barriers to space and logistics are removed. It also has to be noted that the experiment only gave participants a very short experience within a virtual reality room, and there was no control group. However, Danielle Tracey, who is one of the co-leader authors, has said that the early findings are very promising and exploring how virtual reality can be used in clinical settings is a valuable and worthwhile experiment. She said, “Given the preliminary nature of this study, we are pursuing more robust future study designs to better understand the benefits and ensure the program can be used in real-life environments to support the people that need it.” Of course, this makes a lot of sense, as virtual reality is a continually improving and emerging trend within technology. Augmented reality is another way that we could potentially help those with additional needs, and it’s always positive to see people spending time researching how these new technologies can be put to work to create inclusivity and open up the world for disabled people.

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