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Monday 21st May 2018

Shell shock treated by virtual reality

20th October 2009

Virtual reality is proving itself useful as a technique for treating the many veterans of the Iraq war who have developed post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).


The simulations help the soldiers relive the smallest details of life in the military, and even let them smell familiar smells.
The virtual reality participants hold dummy rifles while they watch enthralling war simulations.
Sergeant Robert Butler, who has a long history with the US Marine Corps and has been deployed in Iraq twice, has PTSD.

PTSD, once also known as shell shock, is an extreme reaction to a psychological trauma.
Butler said that, when he came back from his stint in Iraq, he was completely reclusive and avoidant.
He said that, although he exhibited the symptoms of PTSD, he was reluctant to believe that the condition was real and did not want to participate in virtual reality treatment, and that only when he felt he had lost control of his life and that he was about to lose his family did he consider doing so.
The virtual reality stimulation he used to overcome PTSD recreated the sights, sounds, and smells of the war in Iraq.
When a soldier sits down to take part in the virtual reality simulation, they are shown gruesome scenes of combat.
If they turn their heads, their vantage point changes, and if there is an explosion, it rattles the floor underneath them.
Attached to the programme is a machine which makes the soldier smell things like Middle Eastern spices, body odour, or diesel fuel.

Scott Johnston, a clinical psychologist who runs the programme at the Naval Medical Center in San Diego said that the senses are very powerful memory cues, and that it is not good for PTSD sufferers to continue to avoid painful, haunting memories.
By repeatedly experiencing the computer scenario, PTSD sufferers are able to unlock the experiences that have troubled them and go over them in depth with a psychotherapist.

Sergeant Butler said that he is a completely changed person, although he knows that his traumatic memories will never completely leave him.
He said that he feels he has become able to assimilate his traumatic memories rather than splitting them off from his personality.

Johnston said that the treatment has worked for 30 out of 40 subjects.




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David Purves

Friday 5th February 2010 @ 11:20

I have been involved in some of the research into treating depression and anxiety by remote means. sufferers can easily treat depression and axiety themselves at home via their computer, Blues Begone uses avatars and virtual speech to create a CBT treatment. It is as effective as face to face CBT treatment. Clinical trials show consistant high level clinical gains with almost 70% cured of depression see: www.bluesbegone.co.uk

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