In addition to a vast majority of the United States population being prone to stress and anxiety under a fast paced environment, it’s estimated that 1 in 5 people also experience a mental disability. Physiatrists have been known to over prescribe medications to help resolve mental disorders inflicting an estimated loss of 1 trillion dollars a year globally, which in turn is not a solution, since the medications inflict many harsh side effects that in turn continue to disturb the economy. Consequently, researchers are studying how memories and mental wellbeing can be enhanced using Virtual Reality (VR).
The goal is to allow patients to self-administer treatments to enhance wellbeing with personalized guidance from the collaboration of Artificial Intelligence and VR. In the early stages, VR will allow physiatrists to research and visualize scenarios that disturb their patients, helping to find the best way of treatment in align with their patients experiences. The final goal is to have all mental disorders, including PTSD, treated by VR integration therapy. In a recent small scale study, researchers found that VR therapy was more effective than utilizing medications for treatments.
With opportunity for innovation, there are also many concerns associated with advancements in VR. The main concern is the patients becoming addicted to the virtual world. VR is aimed to help patients cope with problems and stressors, rather than being used to avoid problems all together, which is even more harmful for mental health. As social human beings exposed to a virtual world, we may become less interactive with others, which could cause distractions at work and in productivity of everyday life activities. On the other hand, this method of treatment can be healthier and more effective, since medications with drastic side effects could be retired. If successful, the economy will be boosted and businesses will see higher rates of productivity, due to increase in the quality of life for the patients. I believe that this would also lead to people leading a more active lifestyle, since mental health problems will not hold them back and in turn this will reduce the population that is overweight.
~ Danielle Peck