Agoraphobia

What is Agoraphobia?

Agoraphobia is a fear of being in situations where escape might be difficult or that help wouldn't be available if things go wrong. Many people assume agoraphobia is simply a fear of open spaces, but it's a more complex condition. Someone with agoraphobia may be scared of:

  • travelling on public transport
  • visiting a shopping centre
  • leaving home

If someone with agoraphobia finds themselves in a stressful situation, they'll usually experience the symptoms of a panic attack, such as:

  • rapid heartbeat
  • rapid breathing (hyperventilating)
  • feeling hot and sweaty
  • feeling sick
  • They'll avoid situations that cause anxiety and may only leave the house with a friend or partner. They'll order groceries online rather than going to the supermarket. This change in behaviour is known as avoidance.

Virtual Reality Therapy for Agoraphobia

virtual reality environment for agoraphobia allows standardization and control over exposure parameters. It also offers the chance to repeat exposure of feared situations – preventing panic attacks and losing the risk of reinforcing the existing fears. Virtual environments help to work on agoraphobia whether that is when it is difficult to leave a feared situation or when there is not enough support during a panic attack.

VR Environments that help

Walk through the public square

This environment takes the person to an open space in a public square. The amount of people in the square can be controlled in such that the person is gradually exposed to their fears.

Subway ride

This environment takes the person inside an interactive underground train station, which includes walking towards the platform, travelling and exiting to the outside. The number of people and events can be modified to best suit the person’s needs.

Street

This environment takes the person to a small street, lined with restaurants. The number of people in the street and restaurants can be controlled along with the events.

VR Therapy involves gradually introducing the person to the environment and helping them confront it and adapt to make necessary changes. It may involve just a few sessions of therapy, after which the end goal is the person confronting such fears and be confident in bring in stressful situations.

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