When I first heard of virtual reality, I thought of the games I played and the ridiculously large device that I had to wear with it. Little did I know that it would help me with a situation that I would be in years later.
My experience with virtual reality has been life-changing. While there were a few bumps along the way, using virtual reality has been effective for me.
In this article, I’m sharing my experience using virtual reality to help me treat the anxiety and chronic pain that I suffered from after my terrible accident. Read on and learn more about this amazing piece of technology and how it helped my life.
- Using Virtual Reality to Treat Real Pain
- Conquering My Fear of Heights
- Exposure Therapy with Virtual Reality
- Treating Anxiety and Depression with Virtual Reality
- An Unhealthy Escape from the World
- Keeping it Real with Virtual Reality
Using Virtual Reality to Treat Real Pain
When I experienced temporary paralysis and could not walk for almost two years due to a vehicular accident, the first few months of being in bed were terribly difficult. Painkillers were able to help me numb the pain I felt physically, but as for the emotional scars and the anxiety I felt, there was nothing I could take.
I’ve heard of virtual reality before but only in terms of games and entertainment. Through computer technology, users who wear a head-mounted display that looks like oversized goggles can see and move in a simulated environment.
Chronic pain is more than just a physical experience that cannot be treated with medicine alone. Virtual reality affects people physically and emotionally, which can help alleviate chronic pain.
Virtual reality, in a way, hijacks and distracts the brain from feeling pain. Instead, it makes the brain more relaxed and peaceful while exploring new worlds.
A New Feeling in a Simulated Environment
I was experiencing a great deal of physical and mental pain. However, while using virtual reality, my mind was distracted. This helped me slowly withdraw from using drugs to alleviate the pain.
VR inoculated my brain from feeling any pain. For the first few sessions, I felt as if I were transported to another dimension. For a moment, I forgot that I was in a hospital, and it allowed me to forget the situation I was in.
Conquering My Fear of Heights
My fascination for virtual reality did not stop even when I regained mobility. I knew that I feared heights, so I tried to conquer the fear using a virtual reality simulator.
By being in several simulated environments that required me to do activities such as harvest fruits while on the “edge” of a building’s top floor or crossing a building using a beam platform, I was able to somehow lessen my fear of heights.
Doing so had a powerful effect on my fear of heights because while I knew that I was completely safe, the virtual reality simulator was really good at making me feel as if I were immersed in the environment that I was seeing through the goggles.
I felt fear and anxiety, and my hands were shaky and sweaty. But to be in that situation where I was on top of a very tall building multiple times really helped me build my confidence.
Putting My Mind to the Test
After completing several exercises with the simulated reality designed to conquer heights, I faced my fear and put myself in a similar situation—only this time, it was in the real world.
I was surprised at how comfortable I felt, knowing what to expect because of my experience with virtual reality. WIth that prior experience, I would have been anxious and jumpy.
Exposure Therapy with Virtual Reality
This method, known as exposure therapy, helps people like me manage their automatic fear response to situations. With the use of virtual reality, doctors can “expose” patients to these fears without really having to, which makes it a lot safer and better for the patients.
It helped me become desensitized to my fear of heights until I got used to it and built the courage to face my fears.
Virtual reality is an impressive technology because it allows me to get exposure to things that I may be afraid to do. Through the experience, my mind and body behave as if I am being put in a real situation. This is helpful because it mimics a real-life scenario.
Through virtual reality, a memory of safety around heights is being forged by my mind and replaces the anxiety that I feel every time I face heights.
A Liberating Experience
Experiencing virtual reality is a truly immersive experience. Whenever I use it, most of my brain is really focused on what is in front of me. It also engages not just my sense of sight but also my hearing.
Because of this, I am oblivious to everything happening around me in the real world. It’s like I’m in my own world, and I am free to do whatever I want to do.
So far, overcoming my fears through virtual reality simulations has been empowering and liberating.
Treating Anxiety and Depression with Virtual Reality
I was clinically diagnosed with depression around the same time when I lost the ability to walk. I found refuge in virtual reality.
I spent around three months in the hospital, and it felt like I was in jail because I couldn’t control anything at all. I saw the same sights and people and always ate the same food, and so it had gotten stressful and tiring for me.
Virtual reality helped me have something to look forward to in life. As a visual person who loves to travel, not being able to walk felt like the end of the world.
But through virtual reality, I “visited” different places and “saw” a lot of sights. It was better than watching movies and videos because virtual reality is an immersive experience.
Peace of Mind
Immersing in virtual reality gave me a purpose while I was stuck in my hospital bed. I was excited because of all the new content created every day for patients like me.
With access to virtual reality therapy activities, I felt a sense of hope during my time in the hospital.
An Unhealthy Escape from the World
One of the biggest disadvantages of using virtual reality is the effect of unregulated use. Much like addiction to video games, I soon found that I got disconnected from reality and wanted to be in simulated environments rather than interacting with people in the real world.
I was soon caught up in an illusion that virtual reality was my world. It was an unhealthy escape from the world because I was living in a perfect universe based on my virtual reality environments.
Virtual reality games, especially those where I can control my life, have given me peace of mind. Still, countless hours using the technology can make me irritable and annoyed whenever things do not go my way.
After I regained my ability to walk, I felt hot-tempered. I also had a hard time detaching myself from virtual reality. I remembered wanting to stay at home, and explore and build a new world, instead of going out of my home.
Moderation Is Key
As with everything else, moderation is the key to using virtual reality in a healthy way. I knew that I could not depend on virtual reality for my well-being because that is counterproductive to this technology.
Virtual reality is now used to help treat patients dependent on pills, but we should also look out for the possibility of people becoming dependant on virtual reality.
Keeping it Real with Virtual Reality
So, where do we draw the line? One particular example was a video I saw about a mother who recently lost her child.
Developers of a certain virtual reality tech company designed an environment that allowed the grieving mother to talk to her deceased child.
This sparked a conversation on the detrimental effects of virtual reality. In the long run, that simulation where we can interact with a deceased person is a clear disillusion and can do more harm than good.
This is because we might find it hard to delineate what is real from what is not.
Training the Mind
Virtual reality is not designed to substitute medicine but to complement it. While there are a few risks to using virtual reality, such as disillusionment and dependency on technology, these things can be prevented by much more sophisticated and modern systems.
Virtual reality is all bout training the mind and reframing it. I realized that it is possible to take my mind off the pain through virtual reality.
I am excited to see how this technology is further improved in the future. Virtual reality therapy has a lot of potential to become one of the biggest breakthroughs in helping people like me deal with pain, anxiety, and depression.
I hope that more sophisticated systems will emerge and revolutionize how we deal with conditions that affect us physically, mentally, and emotionally. Virtual reality literally took me to new heights.