Virtual Reality Therapy for Eating Disorder

Virtual Reality Therapy for Eating Disorder

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Virtual Reality is becoming a great tool for exposure therapy. Recent studies experiemented with different samples of patients with eating disorders and population without eating disorders to which they are exposed to virtual reality environments and stimuli. The end results showed that people who were in the exposure therapy and used VR had more control over their anxiety levels and hence showed more positive and effective results altogether. The studies also showed that using VR helped in prevention of binge eating behavior in patients with bulimia and binge eating disorder.

Created by Psious, there are several VR simulations patients can enter to confront their issues with body image. One of which is the ‘dressing room’ simulation, in which the patient sees a virtual avatar of themself in undergarments. The patient then uses a set of controls to alter the body appearance of the avatar to establish their self-perceived body image. The therapist is then able to insert a virtual image based on the patient’s body measurements to portray the discrepancy between the patient’s perception of their own body, and their actual dimensions.

Another simulation offered takes place in a restaurant setting, where the patient simulates ordering and eating a meal. The scenario is customizable, with menu options including low-fat, ‘standard’, and high-fat meals, as well as diuretic options that are often overconsumed by those with eating disorders. Patients simulate consumption of their meal and can even choose types of conversation to have with a virtual acquaintance (none, neutral or uncomfortable). The goal of this simulation, pictured below, is to guide the patient through a controlled and customized scenario to help them tackle their anxiety.

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