Virtual Reality In Cognitive Behavioral Therapy – How VR Can Improve Mental Illness


Virtual Reality is an artificial computer – generated world that can be experienced and interacted with. They’re experiences where the user or player uses special equipment to immerse themselves and completely block out the real world, replacing it with computer generated world. The world VR takes you to can look very natural or extremely synthetic and fantastic. 

Though there is no much connection between the real world and the computer generated world the user found himself/herself, VR can still be applied in many fields in real life. Many people have limited its application to video games but the truth is that virtual reality has much more potential than that. 

Virtual Reality has found application in many fields and medicine is no exception. In this article, we will narrow down our discussion to cognitive behavioral disorders, its therapy and how virtual reality can be applied to enhance the efficacy of the therapy. 

Behavioral Disorders 

To meet the objective of this article, we’d shed light on behavioral disorders to enable you adequately understand how Virtual Reality can be applied in its treatment. 

Behavioral disorder simply means abnormalities in a person’s perspective, thinking, relationship with others, etc. It is common in both children and adults.

Behavioral disorders can be anxiety disorder, dissociative disorder, emotional disorder, disruptive behavioral disorder, pervasive developmental disorders etc.

And the manifestations include: inability to pay attention, hyperactivity, drug use, aggression, depression, fear, unhappiness, always in bad mood, inability to maintain satisfactory interpersonal relationships with other people, etc.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

CBT is a psycho-social intervention that aims at improving mental health. It is a type of talk therapy in which the patient (someone having behavioral disorders) and a health counselor (a psychotherapist or therapist) engage in a discussion with the aim of identifying the cause of the disorder and the possible factors (conditions)  that relieve or worsen it. It helps patients to become aware of their inaccurate or negative thinking to enable them view challenging situations more clearly and respond to them in a more effective way. Most times, patients are not even aware that they’re having a disorder e.g. someone who’s aggressive and always gets angry with people. To the best of their knowledge, they’re normal but people around may not be comfortable with their attitudes. Without psychotherapy, this disorder will continue unabated. 

CBT does not involve the use of medications except when there is an underlying ailment that require treatment with drugs. 

Having taken a look at CBT let’s dive in to the main topic of this article. 

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Virtual Reality In CBT 

CBT is completely a talk therapy in which the health counselor uses words of mouth to improve the mental health of the patient. Generating a virtual world where the patients can see themselves living with mental disorder and how people around them react will go a long way in solving their problem which is basically what Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is all about. 

Imagine a chain smoker or a drug addict seeing himself in a perfect world where he/she is living comfortably without smoking or taking any drug. This will make him have a rethink about his habit and start making effort to quit. The major problem with behavioral disorders is that most patients don’t even know that they have a disorder, making them understand is the first and most daunting task in CBT. Virtual Reality can enhance this process through making the individual experience it in a computer generated world that will look like real life event. Virtual Reality can promote calm and relaxation which can be applied in treating inattention and hyperactivity. VR can also adjust bodily awareness, which is very crucial in pain management. 

In addition to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Virtual Reality can be applied in other areas in medicine. Let’s open our minds and embrace this awesome technology.