Can Virtual Reality Improve Mental Health?

Can Virtual Reality Improve Mental Health?


We’ve seen virtual reality hit the mainstream in the past year and a half, and chances are it’s not going to slow down anytime soon. While there remains some debate as to whether VR is a passing fad or a major, lasting development, it’s beginning to look distinctly more like the latter. In the years ahead, we’re going to see better headsets, better software, and more innovative experiences coming out on VR. So what will it all mean?

What Will The Future of VR Look Like?

There are some massive implications of VR in social interaction, for one thing. Right now this isn’t really how we’re using the technology, but Facebook has banked on VR as the future of socializing, and it’s seeming more and more like Mark Zuckerberg and Co. may have been onto something. VR has the ability to help us socialize “in person” without actually being in the same place, something like a far more satisfying version of a video chat, if it’s done right. But don’t think of it just for calls with friends and family. VR socialization may mean whole new twists on things like social networks and dating apps.

Improving VR will also have a major impact on the gaming business. We’ve seen a lot of interesting games coming out already, but we’ve probably only scratched the surface of some of the most lucrative genres. VR casino games have already begun to come out, but we’ve yet to see a leader of the pack that can offer a full-fledged virtual casino with competitive gaming and as many options as you’d find in a Vegas resort. We’ve also seen early demos and promises of open world adventure games on VR, but nothing like the gigantic, endless fantasies that could be just around the corner. Gaming is going to get more sophisticated, and it will probably lead to further VR development.

Can Virtual Reality Improve Mental Health?

We could go on talking about additional industries. VR may change how we conduct job interviews, or how retail shopping works. It’s likely going to impact vacation planning and could bring about incredible developments in medical care. But we want to take a quick look into something that doesn’t get quite as much attention—at least not yet. Could VR have the capacity to make a dent in the unceasing mental health crisis?

Can VR Solve The Mental Health Crisis?

Currently, mental health issues from stress and phobias to PTSD and depression are treated by doctors and drugs, if at all. These issues are far more prevalent than most of us realize, and unfortunately, treatment methods are often imprecise and unreliable. What you may not know is that VR has been used by therapists for decades as a means of treatment for certain mental anxieties and illnesses. The practice is known as VRET (Virtual Reality Exposure Therapy), and while it’s been used for years, it isn’t widely available. That’s what may change as the modern VR headsets become more popular, and are improved upon.

The trouble will be in sifting through the available apps and programs and finding the ones that actually work. Even now, the precise benefits of VRET are difficult to define, and there aren’t many conclusive studies about long-term benefits. It’s said to help soldiers suffering from PTSD, and many believe it can ease anxiety issues in children. But can VRET-like treatments work if they’re redesigned as apps and put in marketplaces for individuals (or their parents) to download?

Can Virtual Reality Improve Mental Health?

This is an open question at this point. The ideal treatment would be strictly monitored and administered, like any other form of medical assistance. Furthermore, there will undoubtedly be unprofessional apps that claim to be able to solve mental health issues through meditative practices and the like. But right now we can at least say that VR has the potential to make a real dent in mental health issues. We merely need to wait to see how effective treatments are going to be made available.

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