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VR Therapy Helps People With Depression

A study led by the University College London (UCL) and ICREA-University of Barcelona,

found out that VR therapy can reduce depressive symptoms. It helps people who suffer from depression to be more compassionate and less critical towards them.

The therapy was applied to 15 patients aged 23-61 who suffered from depression.  The patients wore a VR headset to look from the viewpoint of a virtual body or life-size “avatar.” Seeing the virtual body in a mirror moving the same as their body usually creates an illusion that this is their body. This is termed “embodiment.”

Patients struggling with depression and anxiety are self-critical when there is something wrong in their lives. While embodied in an adult avatar, people were instructed to show compassion to an upset virtual child. When comforting the child, they gradually helped him/her to stop crying.  Thus, the child responded positively to their compassion. After a while, the patients embodied a virtual child. They heard their own words and they were giving compassion to themselves.

This scenario lasted 8 minutes, and the participants repeated it three times a week. They received follow up a month later. Nine reported reduced depressive symptoms, for of who experienced a clinically meaningful decrease in depression severity. Their experience changed their view to real-life events in which they would otherwise have been self-critical.

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