Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Virtual Reality Helping Cure Anxiety Disorders

Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Virtual Reality Helping Cure Anxiety Disorders

Article excerpt

MINNEAPOLIS

Patients at the University of Minnesota Medical Center-Fairview are learning to overcome their fears by facing them. Sort of.

For most of the past year, the university's main teaching hospital has been using an advanced virtual reality program to help desensitize patients to experiences that provoke fear and anxiety. The system is a combination of hi- and low-tech stimulation. For example, a patient with a fear of flying will don the virtual reality headset, placing him or her in the cabin of a plane from the runway, through takeoff and during a turbulent, stormy flight. The visual stimulation from the headset is complimented by woofers in the floor that simulate engine vibrations. But the turbulence itself comes from an observing psychiatrist simply shaking the patient's chair.

Current virtual reality work at the Anxiety Disorders Clinic focuses primarily on the fears of flying and public speaking, but there are also programs to treat the fear of storms, heights, enclosed spaces and being interviewed. …

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