Virtual Reality Exposure Therapy for Combat-Related PTSD
War is perhaps one of the most challenging situations that a human being can experience. The physical, emotional, cognitive, and psychological demands of a combat environment place enormous stress on even the best-prepared military personnel. Numerous reports indicate that the incidence of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in returning Operation Enduring Freedom/Operation Iraqi Freedom (OEF/OIF) military personnel is significant. This has served to motivate research on how to better develop and disseminate evidence-based treatments for PTSD that leverage the unique features available with virtual reality (VR) technology. VR-delivered exposure therapy for PTSD is currently being used to treat combat- and terrorist attack-related PTSD with initial reports of positive outcomes. This chapter presents a brief overview and rationale for the use of VR exposure for combat-related PTSD and describes the Virtual Iraq/Afghanistan exposure therapy system. This includes a short review of the previous literature, a description of the system components and the treatment protocol, and a case presentation. VR offers an alternative format for delivering exposure-based therapies for PTSD that may appeal to certain service members and veterans who grew up “digital” and who might be inclined to seek treatment in this fashion.
KeywordsPosttraumatic stress disorder Anxiety disorders Virtual reality in PTSD Prolonged exposure to combat stress
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