In a research at Oxford University funded by Medical Research Council thirty patients suffering with paranoia were successfully treated with the help of Virtual Reality. The recreations aided the patients to study social circumstances they dreaded were really safe. The study was headed by Professor Daniel Freeman who is a clinical psychologist in the Department of Psychiatry at the Oxford University.
The thirty patients were divided into two groups; one group was asked to behave like they usually do in these situations, like evading eye-contact while the other group was asked to be less defensive than they normally are and approach the avatars (computerized characters) and stare at them or stand quite close to them.
‘And the Paranoia Fades Away’
The second group who put their fears to test exhibited major reduction in their paranoid misapprehensions. By the end of the day over half of the group no longer had austere paranoia. The group who were asked to portray their normal defensive behavior also showed reduction in the level of paranoia, but it was less compared to the first group.
According to the Oxford team members approximately 1-2% of the total population are suffering with severe paranoia which is usually connected to a mental syndrome like schizophrenia. Patients like this strongly do not trust anyone because of which they avoid communication with people and seldom leave home.
The patients had to undergo a session of virtual reality which lasted just for an hour and half hour. A quick study but extremely effective and there is no long term follow up required. Professor Freeman was pleased with the results and mentioned how virtual reality was a sight into the future of psychological health care. The headsets will be soon available in numbers and as they become more economical they will be seen not only in the clinics but in individual homes.