Virtual Reality Shows Promise in Treating Eating Disorders | Healthcare Analytics News
“The virtual environment makes it possible to control the unexpected and to be exposed in a safe environment to certain fears that may be difficult to reproduce in real situations,” Peran said in an email.
In the future, Peran said, it could be helpful to integrate other senses into treatment, like smell and taste. But right now, the main limitation is that many therapists and physicians simply aren’t trained in using VR. The equipment itself often isn’t cheap, as well. (The cheapest major headset on the market, Google’s Daydream kit, retails for about $99). Patients also may have to deal with “simulation sickness.”
Still, the paper noted that direct studies of VR on eating disorders are few and far between. The paper used data from several clinical trials with a single patient, along with others that examined just a handful. It seems that VR-therapy is still in its infancy—just isolated physicians with the means and expertise giving it a shot on willing patients.
Still, the paper notes those isolated trials show signs of progress. The paper found that most researchers focused on exposing users to food stimuli or their own body image, in a controlled format. The authors present VR as a compliment to CBT, the traditional method of therapy that treats anorexia nervosa and bulimia, allowing therapists to work on patients’ response to stimuli (like looking in the mirror or being exposed to food) in a virtual environment, and then apply CBT techniques to help break down their negative body images and anxieties.