New software helps treat social phobias with virtual reality

Published 14.03.2019 00:08

Scientists at the Middle East Technical University (METU) in Ankara have developed new software to treat patients with social phobias via virtual reality.

Social phobias, such as social anxiety disorder, include intense anxiety or fear of being judged, negatively evaluated, or rejected in a social or performance situations. This disorder manifests itself through sweating, blushing and quickening heartbeat in patients suffering it. Patients who wear virtual reality goggles attend seminars, meetings and conferences through their avatars to overcome their social phobias.

Speaking to Anadolu Agency (AA), associate professor Tuğba Tokel said they help patients with "exposure therapy" which means creating a safe environment for patients to face their fears.

"With this new software, patients have a chance to face their fears in an environment of their own choosing. The software uses nine different scenarios including academic meetings, presentation in front of a crowd, business meetings and even crowded shopping malls. During the therapy, avatars can give negative feedback and rejection to patients to help prepare them for real life," Tokel said.

Although the software is new, it is the first software purely developed for social phobia therapy in Turkey. Tokel said they are receiving orders from individuals as well as clinics and hospitals.

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