GOOD

Could the Next Treatment for Depression Be Virtual Reality Therapy?

A new study suggests VR helps patients express self-compassion.

Photo via Flickr user Nan Palmero

Sometimes, your best therapist is yourself—or at least a CGI avatar of yourself. A new study published by the Royal College of Psychiatrists found that virtual reality (VR) therapy can serve as a possible solution for treating depressed patients by encouraging self-appraisal and compassion.


The experiment is designed to target depressed people’s tendency to self-criticize. A major symptom of depression is that people are not able to hold themselves in high regard, and consequently blame and punish themselves for any behavior or action they perceive to have a negative effect. In order to alleviate this tendency, patients are encouraged to practice self-compassion.

“Self-compassion is important in soothing feelings of distress, and without it distress can escalate and become unbearable,” Dr. Chris Brewin, a psychology professor and the study's lead author, told The Huffington Post. “We now know that many patients with depression and other disorders have real problems in being compassionate towards themselves, although they are often very good at being compassionate to others.”

In the experiment, 15 adult subjects with depression participated in three weekly therapy sessions in which they alternated between playing the role of therapist and that of patient. After donning a VR headset and body motion sensors, each subject played an adult who expresses compassion and affirmations to a distressed child. Then, the subject switched to take the place of the child and heard the same words, now expressed to them, in their own voice.

A month after the subjects completed the three-week program, they answered a questionnaire that asked them about their mental health. Nine of the subjects reported a decrease in depression symptoms while four reported significant improvement.

This is only a preliminary step; the sample size in the study was small and there are many other techniques to be tested, but the experiment lays the groundwork for a future in which therapeutic VR could be a viable alternative to in-person therapy options.

Articles
Screenshot via Sweden.se/Twitter (left) Wikimedia Commons (right)

Greta Thunberg has been dubbed the "Joan of Arc of climate change" for good reason. The 16-year-old activist embodies the courage and conviction of the unlikely underdog heroine, as well as the seemingly innate ability to lead a movement.

Thunberg has dedicated her young life to waking up the world to the climate crisis we face and cutting the crap that gets in the way of fixing it. Her speeches are a unique blend of calm rationality and no-holds-barred bluntness. She speaks truth to power, dispassionately and unflinchingly, and it is glorious.

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet
Ottawa Humane Society / Flickr

The Trump Administration won't be remembered for being kind to animals.

In 2018, it launched a new effort to reinstate cruel hunting practices in Alaska that had been outlawed under Obama. Hunters will be able to shoot hibernating bear cubs, murder wolf and coyote cubs while in their dens, and use dogs to hunt black bears.

Efforts to end animal cruelty by the USDA have been curtailed as well. In 2016, under the Obama Administration, the USDA issued 4,944 animal welfare citations, in two years the numbers dropped to just 1,716.

Keep Reading Show less
Science

The disappearance of 40-year-old mortgage broker William Earl Moldt remained a mystery for 22 years because the technology used to find him hadn't been developed yet.

Moldt was reported missing on November 8, 1997. He had left a nightclub around 11 p.m. where he had been drinking. He wasn't known as a heavy drinker and witnesses at the bar said he didn't seem intoxicated when he left.

Keep Reading Show less
Communities
via Real Time with Bill Maher / YouTube and The Late Late Show with James Corden / YouTube

A controversial editorial on America's obesity epidemic and healthcare by comedian Bill Maher on his HBO show "Real Time" inspired a thoughtful, and funny, response by James Cordon. It also made for a great debate about healthcare that Americans are avoiding.

At the end of the September 6th episode of "Real Time, " Maher turned to the camera for his usual editorial and discussed how obesity is a huge part of the healthcare debate that no one is having.

"At Next Thursday's debate, one of the candidates has to say, 'The problem with our healthcare system is Americans eat shit and too much of it.' All the candidates will mention their health plans but no one will bring up the key factor: the citizens don't lift a finger to help," Maher said sternly.

Keep Reading Show less
Politics
via Gage Skidmore

The common stereotypes about liberals and conservatives are that liberals are bleeding hearts and conservatives are cold-hearted.

It makes sense, conservatives want limited government and to cut social programs that help the more vulnerable members of society. Whereas liberals don't mind paying a few more dollars in taxes to help the unfortunate.

A recent study out of Belgium scientifically supports the notion that people who scored lower on emotional ability tests tend to have right-wing and racist views.

Keep Reading Show less
Politics