Acrophobia, most commonly known as fear of heights, has now been overcome in some patients with the help of a virtual therapist.
Are you very afraid of heights? Will, it is arguably only logical and a healthy sign, but can pose a problem for some. New research shows that virtual reality help, this is what British researchers show in a new study published in The Lancet magazine.
The study included more than 100 height-adjusted individuals. About half received no treatment and the other half had to put on a pair of glasses and challenge their fear of height in virtual reality.
Over two weeks, they conducted a number of treatment sessions together with a virtual therapist. Each session was just over half an hour long and they had to do different exercises, for example, save a kitten from a tree or play xylophone on a mountain cliff.
The virtual coach encouraged patients to challenge themselves with “real-world” heights between sessions. At the end of VR treatment, 34 of the 49 volunteers in the treatment group expressed that they were no longer afraid of heights. All 51 volunteers in the control group rated their fear at the same level at the end of the study as at the beginning of the study.
Previous research has shown that it is possible to cure spider biophobia with the aid of VR therapy. This is, however, the first trial to show that VR treatment can produce desired results without the need for a human therapist, which can be costly for marginalized and low-income groups.
Freeman D. et al. Automated psychological therapy using immersive virtual reality for treatment of fear of heights: a single-blind, parallel-group, randomized controlled trial. The Lancet July 11, 2018. DOI: 10.1016 / S2215-0366 (18) 30226-8