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Virtual Reality to help people afraid of flying ?

Discussion in 'Psychology [Psy.D. / Ph.D.]' started by PeacefulFlight, Dec 1, 2017.

  1. PeacefulFlight


    Dec 1, 2017
    Hello everyone [​IMG]

    I am looking to get some feedback on a project I am working on at the moment, which aims to help people who are anxious about flying.
    It's a Virtual Reality Experience that puts you in a virtual aircraft which reproduces every phase of a flight realistically. During the flight, you get to know what's happening during the flight, and how to deal with your breathing to relax. The project is currently in a prototype stage.

    But as I am not specialized in psychology/therapy my question is, do you think that a project like that can actually have a positive effect on someone who is afraid of flying ? Do you think that it's ok if I release the software freely on the internet, or should I give it only to therapists ?

    Thank you for your answers !
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  3. PSYDR

    PSYDR Psychologist 10+ Year Member

    Dec 18, 2005
    You know those guys that play those weirdo Japanese video games where the goal is to get a girlfriend?

    Dunno why that comes to mind.
  4. WisNeuro

    WisNeuro Board Certified Neuropsychologist Psychologist 7+ Year Member

    Feb 15, 2009
    I'm skeptical. Much of the fear about flying is visceral and environmental cues play a huge role. You'd pretty much need a fairly large simulator to have an appreciable impact on fear of flying.
  5. MamaPhD

    MamaPhD Psychologist, Academic Medical Center Psychologist 7+ Year Member

    Aug 2, 2010
    Researchers have been publishing on VR for fear of flying for like 20 years. As for marketable applications of this work, you're way late to the party.

    Nothing is stopping you from putting something out there (spoiler alert: there's plenty of stuff out there already, a lot of it garbage), but you need to work with an expert, preferably from the beginning, to develop something that would be clinically useful.
  6. AcronymAllergy

    AcronymAllergy Neuropsychologist Moderator Psychologist Gold Donor Classifieds Approved 7+ Year Member

    Jan 7, 2010
    Yeah, this and driving are what I was seeing a number of years ago in research articles as possible clinical applications for VR. I haven't been particularly impressed with what I've come across to this point.

    I agree with MamaPhD that it would be best to get in-person input, throughout the development and testing process, from an expert in this area.
  7. Anon15

    Anon15 Senior Member 10+ Year Member

    Aug 14, 2006
    If you are trying to treat a phobia using exposure, you wouldn't want to use breathing to help the individual relax, as you state above. You would *want* the individual to experience the physiological sensation of "feeling" anxious and have the individual experience that anxiety decrease on its own (sans breathing techniques).

    In regards to VR, there is strong empirical evidence to support its application in treating anxiety disorders. A good place to start maybe here:

    Rothbaum, B. O., Hodges, L. F., Ready, D., Graap, K., & Alarcon, R. D. (2001). Virtual reality exposure therapy for Vietnam veterans with posttraumatic stress disorder. The Journal of clinical psychiatry.

    Rothbaum, B. O., Hodges, L., Smith, S., Lee, J. H., & Price, L. (2000). A controlled study of virtual reality exposure therapy for the fear of flying. Journal of consulting and Clinical Psychology, 68(6), 1020-1026.

    If you want a "watered down" version, Barbara Rothbaum has a TED talk on VR.
  8. singasongofjoy

    singasongofjoy Psychologist 2+ Year Member

    Dec 4, 2014
    I'll blame it on need for sleep, but I read the thread title as "... to help people who are afraid of dying." Not sure what THAT would look like, but would be a very different type of virtual reality experience, I suppose...

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