Researchers rely on Virtual Reality as a complementary therapy for eating disorders

Researchers rely on Virtual Reality as a complementary therapy for eating disorders

The innovative VR tool Awaken Emerse is designed to treat eating disorders and prevent relapse.


Researchers at the University of Louisville are using virtual reality to develop a new approach to treating eating disorders. Research Professor Christina Ralph-Nearman explains that traditional therapies are often ineffective for many sufferers.

Even when treatment is successful, 50 percent relapse within two to six months. VR offers a more realistic and personalized alternative to previous exposure exercises.

The university's therapy tool, called Awaken Emerse, allows sufferers to virtually experience and overcome their fears, such as the fear of gaining weight. Users adjust their avatar and see their body gain weight. The fear increases at first, but then subsides. This is how they learn to deal with it.

Ralph-Nearman believes that tools like this can help treat people more effectively and support therapists.



Virtual Reality as a complementary therapy tool

VR is also used in the treatment of depression, chronic pain, and phobias such as the fear of spiders and wasps. Psychotherapist Felix Eschenburg reports positive results of VR therapies. VR offers an easy introduction because the fear triggers are not real. This facilitates further confrontation in the course of therapy.

A meta-study suggests that cognitive behavioral therapy combined with VR is effective for anxiety disorders. VR is a useful adjunct to traditional methods. However, VR is not yet widely used in therapy and is more of a research topic.

Sources: Spectrum News 1