Virtual reality Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) exposure therapy results with active duty Iraq war combatants
Rizzo, A.A., Reger, G., Perlman, K., Rothbaum, B., Difede, J., McLay, R., Graap, K., Gahm, G., Johnson, S., Deal, R., Pair, J., Parsons, T.D., Roy, M., Shilling, R. and Sharkey, P.M. (2008) Virtual reality Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) exposure therapy results with active duty Iraq war combatants. In: 7th International Conference on Disability, Virtual Reality and Associated Technologies with ArtAbilitation 2008, Maia & Porto, Portugal.
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Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is reported to be caused by traumatic events that are outside the range of usual human experience including (but not limited to) military combat, violent personal assault, being kidnapped or taken hostage and terrorist attacks. Initial data suggests that at least 1 out of 6 Iraq War veterans are exhibiting symptoms of depression, anxiety and PTSD. Virtual Reality (VR) delivered exposure therapy for PTSD has been used with reports of positive outcomes. The aim of the current paper is to present the rationale and brief description of a Virtual Iraq PTSD VR therapy application and present initial findings from its use with PTSD patients. Thus far, Virtual Iraq consists of a series of customizable virtual scenarios designed to represent relevant Middle Eastern VR contexts for exposure therapy, including a city and desert road convoy environment. User-centered design feedback needed to iteratively evolve the system was gathered from returning Iraq War veterans in the USA and from a system deployed in Iraq and tested by an Army Combat Stress Control Team. Results from an open clinical trial at San Diego Naval Medical Center of the first 18 treatment completers indicate that 14 no longer meet PTSD diagnostic criteria at post-treatment, with only one not maintaining treatment gains at 3 month follow-up. Clinical tests are also currently underway at Ft. Lewis, Emory University, Weill Cornell Medical College, Walter Reed Army Medical Center and 10 other sites. Other sites are preparing to use the application for a variety of PTSD and VR research purposes.