The recent convergence between technology and medicine is offering innovative methods and tools for behavioral health care. Among these, an emerging approach is the use of virtual reality (VR) within exposure-based protocols for anxiety disorders, and in particular posttraumatic stress disorder. In a randomised controlled clinical trial funded by the European Commission, our team was able to show that Virtual Reality enhanced treatment is able to significantly reduce stress, while increasing coping skills.
Category: Press releases
Going back to school can be as stressful for your kids as it is for you. But you can help make things easier by helping your children be ready well in advance of the first day of class. Being informed is the first step in staying healthy and safe going back to school. Learn all you can about the best way to keep your kids safe from the virus as well as other illnesses.
Some of the most obvious tips that we have been hearing over and over again on the news are actually some of the best ways to stay safe. Washing your hands often, using hand sanitizer, staying at least six feet away from everyone, keeping your hands away from your face, and wearing the proper face covering are the top five tips from the CDC.
It is also important to make sure your kids are mentally healthy. Kids can be just as stressed out as we are, and they just do not show it in the same way. Many times, they will not even tell you what they are feeling. In fact, according to the American Psychological Association (APA), every year, about one in five American children suffer from some type of behavioral, emotional, or mental illness. Even if your child seems happy and healthy, supporting their mental health as much as their physical health can stave off problems they may have later.
If you notice your child seems more withdrawn than usual, is not interested in their typical activities, or just seem to be more anxious or depressed, talk to them. Ask them what is going on. And if you think your child has a problem, you may want to try virtual reality therapy. At the Virtual Reality Medical Center in San Diego, Dr. Brenda Wiederhold is available to treat any type of anxiety and various other mental health issues.
The Pain Practitioner interviewed Dr. Brenda K Wiederhold, CEO of Interactive Media Institute, a 501c3
and President of the Virtual Reality Medical Center, a California Medical Corporation.
VRMC develops VR environments, conducts clinical research studies using VR, AR, medical devices,
biosensors and pharmaceuticals in conjunction with traditional behavioral healthcare and provides patient
services at its private clinic on the Scripps Memorial Hospital Campus in La Jolla, California.
What You Can do to Reduce Your Anxiety About COVID-19
Since everyone reacts differently to situations like COVID-19, it is important to be prepared to handle any type of anxiety or fear you may be feeling at this time. When things in your life become so uncertain and you don’t know what is going to happen, you may begin to panic or have severe anxiety. And one of the worst things about this crisis is that most of the world is on lockdown so we cannot just go to a friend’s house, to the gym, or whatever else you typically do to deal with your stress.
However, that does not mean that you cannot do something to deal with your emotions. First of all, you don’t have to go to the gym to work out. Even if you don’t have any kind of exercise equipment at home. One of the best ways to exercise is to walk. Yes, you can go outside for a walk. Just stay at least six feet away from anyone you happen to see. Another way to get some exercise and enjoy the outdoors is gardening or yard work. Since the weather is getting warmer, go ahead and start getting your garden ready or just walk around the yard and pick up sticks, rocks, and other debris that may have made its way into your yard during the winter.
Don’t forget to talk to people. Just because you are quarantined does not mean you cannot communicate with your loved ones. Use Facetime, videochat, text, or just talk on the phone to friends, family, or anyone. Not only will you feel better, you will make the other person happy as well. Loneliness is real. Do not isolate yourself so much that you are not talking to anyone at all. Another way to help your anxiety is to use virtual reality therapy. Whether that means connecting with a therapist on telementalhealth or coming into a clinic, like the Virtual Reality Medical Center in La Jolla, Dr. Brenda Wiederhold is available to treat any type of anxiety management.
Talking to Your Kids About COVID-19
Your kids may not seem like they are anxious about this COVID-19 crisis, but they probably have a lot of questions about what is going on. For example, they are probably wondering why they have to stay home from school. Although many kids like this vacation from their daily routine, most are probably getting anxious about what is going on. The younger ones that are not in school yet may even be wondering why their siblings are home and why they cannot go see their friends or go to the park.
Do not just tell them not to worry about it and try to shield them from the COVID-19 issues. Because we all know that you cannot stop someone from worrying by telling them not to worry. In fact, in many cases, it will make them worry more. Listen to your child’s questions and answer them as best as you can. If you do not know the answer to their question, go on trusted sites like the CDC and look for the answers and ways to help your children cope. Without overwhelming your child with too much information, go ahead and let them know what is going on because what is going on in their imagination may be much worse than the truth.
If your child is really having a hard time dealing with things, it is important to get them some professional help. Although most mental health providers are not taking appointments right now because of the quarantine, you can always find online counseling. Most online counseling can be done without ever having to go to the office and can all be done from home. In addition, talk to Dr. Brenda Wiederhold from the Virtual Reality Medical Center about her options to help during this COVID-19 lockdown.
Taking the Anxiety Out of COVID-19 for Those with Pre-Existing Anxiety
During these troubling times, it is difficult for anyone to deal with their anxiety and stress. Those with pre-existing anxiety disorders can really have a tough time with the COVID-19 crisis. But there are things you can do to help yourself or others who may not be handling the situation well.
First of all, turn off the news. Watching too much coverage about COVID-19 can make anyone anxious. While it is good to be informed, it is more important to take a break from the constant worry and think about other things for a while. Your mental health needs a break sometimes.
Talk to someone if you feel like you are becoming overwhelmed. Even if you already have a therapist, they may not be available to you right now. Many mental health providers are not taking appointments right now except for virtual visits or online counseling. If your therapist does not offer this kind of help, contact one that does.
There are many out there and you don’t even need an appointment for most of them. Then you can talk to them by text, phone, chat, or videochat. Many health plans are also relaxing their payment schedules for virtual visits during this time of “shelter in place”.
Another example would be to use virtual reality therapy. This type of therapy involves using virtual reality to expose you to your fears gradually. It works extremely well with anxiety disorders and phobias. Dr. Brenda Wiederhold of the Virtual Reality Medical Center offers treatment for all types of anxiety, phobias, and pain management. In addition, there are relaxation apps that one can find on the app store such as Calm, Headspace and Kardia that may help get you through these difficult times. Remember, now more than ever, we must be mindful of our mental well-being.
“Last September, my husband and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary and flew from California to Vermont. This was the first time I had flown in years.”
Like many people with aviophobia, Gaustad hadn’t always been afraid of flying. “We actually flew quite a bit. But on a flight to Las Vegas, our plane hit a few air pockets… enough turbulence to throw things around a bit… and although everything turned out okay, I got real real panicky and said, ‘I’m not going to be able to do this again.'” Sure enough, Gaustad and her family traveled by car, bus or train throughout the next decade.
Knowing the anniversary trip was coming up, Gaustad decided to do something about her phobia and learned that virtual reality therapy was available through her company’s employee benefits. “I only met with Brenda seven or eight times before the therapy worked on me,” she recalls. “In fact, before the sessions were completely over, I had already booked our flights to Vermont.”
“Yes I did feel sort of weird when I wasn’t flying, like there was someting wrong with me,” Gaustad admits. “It was important that my husband understood my problem. Be patient and work through this together.”
The Virtual Reality Medical Center and nonprofit affiliate, Interactive Media Institute, recently published the article, “Using Virtual Reality to Mobilize Health Care: Mobile Virtual Reality Technology for Attenuation of Anxiety and Pain” in the January Issue of IEEE Consumer Electronics Magazine. The article summarizes the use of virtual reality as a tool for pain distraction and stress reduction in patients. This tool has been used to treat phobias, stress disorders, distract from surgical pain, and help overcome chronic pain. As a mobile healthcare platform, virtual reality and related technologies are changing the face of healthcare services by increasing access, efficiency, and effectiveness.
For the full text, please visit: http://ieeexplore.ieee.org/document/8197481/
Please direct any questions regarding this article to Dr. Brenda K. Wiederhold at email@example.com
Wiederhold BK, Miller IT, Wiederhold MD. Using Virtual Reality to Mobilize Health Care: Mobile Virtual Reality Technology for Attenuation of Anxiety and Pain. IEEE Consumer Electronics Magazine. 2018 Jan;7(1):106-9.
“It started when the plane took off.”
Keely Moore isn’t afraid of a plane crash. It’s the airplane cabin closing in on her.
“I just felt kind of trapped.”
Keely suffers from panic attacks—intense unexpected episodes of fear. The attacks trigger severe physical reactions including, racing heart, chest pains, and dizziness. The attack strike terror in Keely’s mind.
“You know the fear of dying, not knowing what’s going on”
The real world situation is too overwhelming for a lot of people.
So in virtual reality, we can put them in near real-world situations, have them experience that fear, teach them coping mechanisms, also teach them that those feelings aren’t dangerous.
Keely’s nine flights virtual flights have paid off. “It just feels more like excitement than anxiety.”
For more information on Keely’s story click here.
I had a normal childhood. One of my favorite places in our hometown was our bird farm, where I thought it was very cool to go hang out with birds and touch them. I cannot imagine this anymore.
All of this was until I had a very bad experience one day. I was nine. We were in this park and someone dumped a bag of birdseed in front of me. All of a sudden there I was engulfed in a cloud of sparrows. I couldn’t see anything except brown-white feathers everywhere. And I couldn’t hear anything except for chirping, frantic wing flapping.
I started to feel like I couldn’t breathe. To me this felt like it went on for tens of minutes, even though talking to Brenda, I realized it must have actually been a couple of seconds.
I was really shaken. My parents were like, “Oh, poor baby, let’s go and take her out for some ice cream.” And we did. They sat me down and put some ice cream in front of me. And, a very bold pigeon landed in my plate and started flapping around. There were feathers everywhere and the sound that terrified me a couple of seconds ago was back.
I think that was what cemented the connection between birds and danger in my mind. I think I’ve had this phobia ever since.
How it affected Neha’s daily life
When we walk around Palo Alto, we have to take a special route to avoid houses with any chicken coops.Neha’s Boyfriend
When we walk around in the city, and you see a bird on the sidewalk, you squeeze my hand really tightly and cry.Neha’s Sister
That time you ran out of the kitchen, screaming and sweating and crying, and it was because there was a feather on the floor.Neha’s Mom
The Next Steps
My mother sent out an email to all of her doctor friends saying, “My daughter runs into traffic to escape pigeons. Can anyone help us?” The answer we got was VR therapy.
I thought, “That sounds made up, and kinda like sci-fi.”
I can deal with a penguin maybe, a video of a penguinNeha
Even as a part of the process, there was an option to stop. So I never felt like, “Oh my God, I can’t take it anymore.” It was always under control. It was never something that I felt like I had to get out of immediately.
My goal was to not have bird phobia interrupt my daily life. I wanted to walk within 10 feet of a bird.
If I’m being perfectly honest, I definitely still pay attention to birds. “Oh there’s a bird near me, I’m going to start my breathing exercises.” But, I can function like normal.
For more information on Neha’s story, click here.
I decided to take the VR class for both fear of flying and fear of heights. It’s something I felt I needed to do. The flying and heights have been a problem with me for almost 30 years and it was inflicting difficulties on myself in terms of traveling and my wanting to do things. I found myself eliminating a lot of the fun things I used to do. I just didn’t want to do them. And I’d find excuse for not doing them and for reasons I couldn’t go here or I couldn’t go there and then feel bad later that I did not go. so I just decided it was time to put my life on hold and work on this for a while.
We sat down and we talked about some of the things that were [plexing] me and what I needed to do as far as what I needed to do as far as the program and we started discussing what the problem was and what might have caused it. And from there I learned to do diaphragmic breathing as a means to ease my fears and stress levels. Then we began to use VR introductory type of things where I was In a plane.
I learned the breathing techniques to go along with the actual flying of the VR I had gotten to a point where I was absolutely unable even want to get on a plane at all from small props to multi probs to jets to anything.
I was preparing myself for a trip back east, and that was the thing, I just wanted to feel like I could go back to NY state and feel lets say reasonably comfortable, maybe not as comfortable as someone who’s not afraid of flying by with far less stress than what I had had in previous years. And I relied on all the techniques that I had learned in VR class and the tapes that I played in my mind and and the visualizations that I did and it made the flight that would have probably had me right up on the wall into something that I was able to tolerate and get through and felt pretty good about having got there and then on the return even less stressful.
I felt that the program was far and above better than what I had expected I really did not know what to expect when I came in. But for me it was a life saver, in that I was then able to go about and do other things not just from flying but other things that had a fear factor of heights and of that nature and so it was powerful.
I have one final goal in flying that I want to do and that is to work my way back up into a propeller aircraft which was the reason I got into this clinic in the first place, the fear of flying as a result of propeller aircraft problem.
Suggestions from Kevin:
You have to do more than just come into the clinic, the clinic will just direct you, but you have to make extra efforts cause if you just rely on the clinic, you’ll get something out of it but not exactly what you want, you will fall short.
I think that in time this is gonna pass, I got the best of it, I would suggest to anyone who has a fear of flying the first step is to recognize what it is, fear of flying, that’s the phobia, then set the time aside to get it taken care of, don’t want as long as I did get it taken care of, I think this is a good place to do it.
For more information on Kevin’s story, click here.