Treating the phobia of flight using virtual reality

The phobia of flight or aerophobia belongs to the category of phobia specific to the situation, Which, in its varying degrees, affects about a quarter of the population, 10% of whom meet the necessary criteria to be diagnosed as a specific phobia.

In this article, we will see what are the possible therapeutic proposals that can be used to treat this disorder, and we will focus on one of them which is in particular egicas: treatment of aerophobia using virtual reality.

    What is aerophobia or the phobia of flying?

    Aerophobia is a psychological disorder in which situations interpreted as related to the experience of flying in an airplane produce symptoms of extreme anxiety, Such as sweating, tremors, dizziness or panic attacks. As a result, everything is done to avoid these situations, even if one is aware that there is a real or significant danger when catching an airplane.

    Beyond beliefs, theft phobia is not an individualized fear, but a reflection of different underlying components. It can be caused either by direct aversive experiences, by proxy learning (seeing others do things, or by experiencing certain events) or by the transmission of information (putting on the danger of airplanes, etc.).

    Aerophobia is mainly made up of very specific concernsLike the fear of flight accidents, although we also find other apprehensions which reflect the heterogeneity of the different manifestations of the disorder, and which can come from other phobias. For example, fear of confined spaces, fear of losing control of the situation, fear of heights, fear of experiencing unwanted physical sensations, or fear of instability.

    Cognitive techniques to overcome phobias

    The psychological treatment techniques and procedures used in the therapeutic approach to aerophobia are very different from each other. The most widely used processing, in any case, is that of multi-component programs.. With different individual peculiarities, most of them consist of the following elements.

    Aviation Information on Anxiety Responses

    this one helps contextualize the experience and to dismiss certain myths about the danger of flying.

    Activation control strategies

    For example, controlled breathing, muscle relaxation, and applied relaxation.

    cognitive strategies

    For example, self-learning, rational emotional therapy, the detection of phobic cognitions and the generation of alternative thoughts. They are suitable for controlling dysfunctional thoughts.

    Live exhibition

    It is carried out as part of the treatment itself or as a flight schedule at the end of the training.

    Virtual reality in the treatment of the phobia of flight

    The inherent difficulties of realizing the live exposure, in the specific case of the fear of flying, are due both to economic disadvantages and to the impracticality of the treatment. This has led to the development of other favorable procedures for coping with dreaded stimuli, such as computer generated treatments and above all virtual reality.

    Virtual reality exposure has the same effectiveness as live exposure, with the improvement it works by avoiding all those inconveniences that we would have with live processing previously commented.

    But … what exactly is virtual reality? This is an application which includes a number of computer-generated environments using 3D graphics or 360 ° shoots, fully immersive and interactive with the patient. This method is safe, non-invasive and creates a sense of situational presence. On the other hand, the technology used has a history of more than 20 years of scientific studies behind its back, based on the fact that the first article on virtual reality in the field of clinical psychology dates from 1985.

    When we talk about virtual reality in the health sector, we have it as a reference the Psious platform, designed by and for psychologists. This company works with equipment composed of specific glasses for virtual reality, a smart mobile phone, a computer with which the therapist configures the variables and a biofeedback sensor to monitor the physiological response of the patient.

    The virtual reality on which Psious is based it allows to increase the immersion, the engagement and the satisfaction of the patients, In addition to providing faster and more effective therapy. It is a tool that not only intervenes in cases of aerophobia, but can also treat other phobias and anxiety-related disorders, such as PTSD, OCD, ADHD, anxiety attacks or eating disorders.

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