Virtual Reality Helps Alleviate Mental Health Disorder Symptoms

Season 1; Episode 4 ft. Limbix

Photo by Lucrezia Carnelos on Unsplash

Season 1 Episodes

Season 1; Episode 4 — Virtual Reality Helps Mental Health Disorders
Season 1; Episode 3 — A Virtual Cold War
Season 1; Episode 2 — U.S. Olympic Team Virtual Reality
Season 1; Episode 1 — Virtual Fitness: Reshaping Exercise

In this segment, Knoxlabs presents recent research on virtual reality’s effectiveness in helping alleviate anxiety and depression disorders. Limbix — a virtual reality provider for medical use — explains the delicate demand and need for virtual reality in treatments. To read more, toggle down.

Fitness & VR is a Knoxlabs Online Original Series, writing on the technological nexus between virtual reality and health. Follow Knoxlabs to stay informed on recent developments and topics in virtual reality fitness.

Photo by Lucrezia Carnelos on Unsplash

Recent research from University of Minnesota Twin Cities, and University of Minnesota Duluth, explores the benefits of virtual reality as medical treatment. The study, titled Virtual Reality Exercise for Anxiety and Depression: A Preliminary Review of Current Research in an Emerging Field, reviews the role of virtual reality as an emerging concept in medical circumstances. The university researchers highlight the capabilities of virtual reality as a complementary medium to alleviate anxiety and depression symptoms. In the realm of medical terms, the digital space known as augmented or virtual reality is known as VR exposure therapy (VRET).

“VR exposure therapy (VRET) has become popular in the treatment of anxiety and depression, with a growing body of literature suggesting that VRET is a successful tool for the treatment of anxiety- and depression-related symptomology.”
University of Minnesota

What Research Shows

Anxiety is one of the most common mental health disorders in the U.S. — nearly 40 million adults suffer annually. Yet only 37% seek and receive professional treatment. People with anxiety disorders often experience “recurring intrusive thoughts or concerns,” and “… physical symptoms such as trembling, sweating, a rapid heartbeat, or dizziness.”

Depression, separate yet frequently experienced in anxiety patients, effects millions of Americans on an annual basis. In 2015, approximately 16 million U.S. adults had experienced at least one intense depressive incident. Treatments for both depression and anxiety mental health disorders commonly incorporate psychotherapy, the treatment of mental disorder by psychological rather than medical means.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), a source of psychotherapy, treats medical conditions through the modification of “dysfunctional emotions, behaviors, and thoughts.” CBT thence replaces negative thought processes with productive mental stimulators. More researchers consider VRET as an emerging concept in the world of CBT.

Millions of Americans annually suffer from depression and anxiety. | Photo by Jonathan Rados on Unsplash

Other forms of psychotherapy include exercise, which often helps patients suffering from anxiety and depression issues. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, five minutes of aerobic exercise “can begin to stimulate anti-anxiety effects.” Blending exercise with augmented reality, this is when virtual reality’s versatility comes into fruition. Not only do virtual reality experiences activate the mind, but also push for action — resulting in a creative form of engaging exercise.

“Notably, VR-based treatments for different mental health conditions have observed positive findings. Specifically, VR has been investigated in the treatment of phobias, obesity, chronic pain, and eating disorders.”
University of Minnesota

The study concludes in favor of virtual reality, though acknowledges the technological limitations. However, immersive virtual reality is an attractive medium to cope with mental health disorders in its creative approach to treatments. Hence, the study describes virtual reality as, “arguably the most exciting and technologically-advanced” method of anxiety and depression treatment.

University of Minnesota’s study links a positive trend within the space of augmented reality as a proper supplemental method for mental treatments through its unique, mind-stimulating physical activities. Though it does not find it as a sole treatment to any of the disorders.


Limbix — Virtual Reality for Mental Health

Altogether, various startups are working towards enhancing virtual reality experience — especially in health. Limbix — an organization that focuses on virtual reality for mental health — cooperates and establishes partnerships with universities, hospitals, and institutions to better understand virtual reality’s place in medical treatments. Limbix digitally develops virtual scenarios specified for, but not limited to, mental health disorders.

Limbix approaches mental health cases with a research-based approach, including partnerships with institutions such as Stanford, USC, and CU’s National Mental Health Innovation Center. Academic researchers of reputable instititons help create and scientifically validate VRET and other forms of digital treatments for various mental health cases. Limbix then creates content based on the scientific research packaged in an exclusive VR Kit to medical providers. The VR Kit helps patients face the root of the problem through practical examinations during the visual experience.

Limbix demonstrates their VR Kit as a form of exposure therapy | Courtesy of Limbix via YouTube

To better understand this phenomenon, Knoxlabs had the pleasure to speak with Chief Operating Officer of Limbix, Jonathan Sockell.

“Limbix,” notes Sockell, “incorporates research as a primary source of its motivation.” Numerous components of virtual reality separates itself apart from any other form of medical treatment. It is visually engaging, efficient, and beneficial for both the patient and therapist in their journey to treatment. “More than 20 years of research shows that virtual reality holds a prominent position in mental health treatment and holds significant potential to help other forms of health issues too,” Sockell explains.

“We saw VR play a pivotal role in mental health…most mental health clinics didn’t have tools for this technology to advance. That’s why Limbix aimed to establish virtual reality as an accessible tool in the medical field.”
COO of Limbix, Jonathan Sockell

Virtual reality visits the source of distress visually in a virtual space. Patients then interact with the virtual environment physically and emotionally — offering psychotherapy at the comfort of almost any location. Essentially, virtual reality stands as a direct medium for doctors to examine a patient’s reaction to virtual scenarios. It helps doctors and therapists bettter assess the disorder with more detail in subsequent treatments.

Limbix’s unprecedented approach at VR. | Video Courtesy of Limbix via YouTube

Therefore, Limbix provides access to psychoeducation for the betterment of research, medical treatment, and proper diagnostics. Ultimately, modernizing treatment of mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and phobias in an elite and creative manner.

To learn more about Limbix, visit www.limbix.com for more information on the newly emerging field of VR in health treatment. Their services are expanding nationwide with numerous medical clinics trusting their medically-trusted content for treatments.


Season 1 Episodes

Season 1; Episode 4 — Virtual Reality Helps Mental Health Disorders
Season 1; Episode 3 — A Virtual Cold War
Season 1; Episode 2 — U.S. Olympic Team Virtual Reality
Season 1; Episode 1 — Virtual Fitness: Reshaping Exercise

Knoxlabs incorporates international stories as part of its Knoxlabs Original Online Series on virtual reality in exercise and health.

Visit Knoxlabs to stay tuned and follow more informative articles from the editorial crew.