When you think about virtual reality (VR), there are probably a couple of experiences that come to mind, and they’re more about entertainment than relaxation. The first things you think about may well be immersive games that make you feel like you’re in the midst of an incredible adventure. Indeed, virtual reality has given way to open world experiences that we can enjoy like never before, and has even made way for a sub-genre of games related to the ever-popular “shooter” category. These are all action-packed options, so much so that some even warn they can be a little bit disorienting in the early going.
You might also think of tabletop games, which rope in several different genres that can all be made realistic via VR. The most impactful development in this regard might be VR’s capability to build on the offering of live dealer games by online and mobile casino developers. A VR casino game, more than just providing a feed to a live dealer, can actually fully place you in a virtual casino. Similar success can be had making other tabletop games, like board games or RPGs, as realistic as if you’re playing in the living room with friends. These games are less action-packed, but the virtual nature of them could still make them tenser (and potentially stressful) than they are in other forms.
So, you get the idea. There are a lot of fun possibilities, but most of them involve adventure, immersion, and even a simple kind of stress. But while these are the experiences that hog the spotlight with regard to VR, they’re far from the only uses for the technology. Directly counter to the idea of excitement and high-stress situations built for the sake of entertainment, there is also growing buzz about the potential use of VR in combatting anxiety issues.
Such issues are far more common than many people may realize. In fact, anxiety disorders are said to be the most common mental illness in the United States, affecting 40 million adults (18 percent of the population) at least. Currently, methods of treatment range from regular therapy to various medications. But with such a common problem, it stands to reason that people are always on the lookout for new ways to help those who are suffering.
VR certainly doesn’t have all the answers, but as stated, it’s definitely starting to generate some buzz in this area. It was actually back in the spring of 2015, before VR really even took off, that VICE published an article about a game that could relieve anxiety attacks, and was “so effective at calming stress it has made grown men cry.” The game serves as a digital isolation tank of sorts, and basically works by providing a sort of visual simulation of a deep breathing exercise. It’s only one early example, but some of the quotes and comments in the article can give you an idea of the potential of VR in this field.
Now, with the popularity of VR expanding, there’s no telling how many similar experiences will emerge. It’s not a stretch to imagine that in another five years or so, VR “games” like the one VICE wrote about will be high on the list of available and effective treatments for anxiety disorders.