Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that can develop after a person experiences a traumatic event such as a natural disaster, combat, or sexual assault. The symptoms of PTSD can include re-experiencing the traumatic event through flashbacks or nightmares, avoidance of triggers related to the event, and increased arousal and anxiety.
Globally, it is estimated that up to 1 billion children aged 2-17 years, have experienced physical, sexual, or emotional violence in the past year.1
Traditional PTSD treatments include exposure therapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy, and medication. However, these treatments can be challenging for some patients, as they may involve reliving the traumatic event and confronting their fears. Augmented Reality (AR) is a new and innovative approach to PTSD treatment that offers an alternative way to treat the condition.
AR technology can be used to create virtual environments that simulate real-life situations, allowing patients to gradually confront their fears and triggers in a controlled and safe setting. For example, an AR application might simulate a war zone for a veteran with combat-related PTSD2, allowing them to practice coping strategies in a virtual environment before facing similar situations in real life. This approach can be less intimidating and more engaging for some patients, as they are able to control the pace and level of exposure to their triggers.
In addition to exposure therapy, AR can be used to deliver other forms of therapy and treatment, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy. For example, an AR application might use visualization and guided meditation to help patients reframe negative thoughts and beliefs related to their traumatic experience. This type of therapy can be particularly useful for patients who struggle with intrusive thoughts and emotional distress related to their PTSD.
Another potential benefit of AR for PTSD treatment is accessibility. Traditional exposure therapy and other forms of therapy can be costly, time-consuming, and difficult to access, particularly for individuals living in rural or remote areas. AR technology is portable, can be used in a variety of settings, and is often less expensive than traditional therapy. This makes AR a potentially valuable tool for delivering PTSD treatments to individuals who may not otherwise have access to care.
Despite the potential benefits of AR for PTSD treatment, more research is needed to fully understand its effectiveness and limitations. Initial studies suggest that AR is a promising approach to treating PTSD, but further research is needed to determine the long-term effects and to identify the best ways to integrate AR into existing treatment plans.
In conclusion, AR technology has the potential to revolutionize the way we treat PTSD and other mental health conditions. By allowing patients to gradually confront their fears and triggers in a controlled and safe setting, AR has the potential to be a valuable tool for delivering accessible, engaging, and effective PTSD treatments. Further research is needed to fully understand the effectiveness and limitations of AR for PTSD treatment, but the early results are promising, and the technology has the potential to change the lives of many individuals struggling with PTSD.
- S. Hillis, J. Mercy, A. Amobi and H. Kress, “Global Prevalence of Past-year Violence Against Children: A Systematic Review and Minimum Estimates”, Pediatrics, vol. 137, no. 3, Mar. 2016.
- L. Chang, A. Cassinelli and C. Sandor, “Augmented Reality Narratives for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Treatment,” 2020 IEEE International Symposium on Mixed and Augmented Reality Adjunct (ISMAR-Adjunct), Recife, Brazil, 2020, pp. 306-309, doi: 10.1109/ISMAR-Adjunct51615.2020.00086.