Mention a rollercoaster or a highrise building or an observation point to someone who is afraid of height and you will see that just the thought of it drains all color from their face.
Being afraid of heights is real and can be paralyzing. Remember the scene in Pretty Women when the penthouse suite is on the top floor but Richard Gere is afraid of heights?
This is where Virtual Reality (VR) is playing a big role in helping people overcome those fears. And its not just about being afraid of heights either. Some of the most common phobias in the world include:
- Fear of flying (Aerophobia)
- Fear of small spaces (Claustrophobia)
- Fear of open spaces and crowds (Agoraphobia)
- Fear of heights (Acrophobia)
- Fear of spiders (Arachnophobia)
While it might seem incredulous to imagine being able to conquer these fears with technology, the truth is that more and more people are doing it successfully and are letting go of their fears once and for all.
Earlier this year, Samsung asked: ‘What could you do if you were fearless?’ where it used its Gear VR headset along with an app that works on your phone, it help people overcome fear of height:
As part of Samsung’s #BeFearless programme, 27 people underwent a four-week training programme using its Gear VR, before then facing their fears in real life. In those looking to conquer a fear of heights, 87.5% of participants saw their anxiety around heights reduced by 23.6%. It’s new technology that has yet to be explored in depth, but these initial figures offer some incredible insight into how VR could be used to conquer fear.
Not sure how real this is? This is what happened when we tried it…
How does Virtual Reality help with fears?
Using VR to conquer fears is a form of exposure therapy. VR offers the perfect platform for exposure therapy, by providing a safe environment that individuals can interact with and can eventually use to feel desensitized to the triggers that cause their anxiety and other emotional responses to their phobias.
In the same way that driving simulations can help people to feel at ease behind the wheel before going out on the road, using VR as a form of exposure therapy can help to normalize responses and get a person used to something before they actually face it in real life. By being exposed to video and VR programmes repeatedly in a safe space, people can enjoy an easier way of facing their fears.
It’s not just phobias that are being tackled using VR. The British Journal of Psychiatry published a study which showed the results of treating depression using VR. The VR programmes used allowed people to role play to help them better handle situations and emotions and is something that could be used to treat many people in the future.
Best uses of using VR to beat your fears
With VR, this is possible and could help you boost your confidence by helping you to experience as close to a real-life situation as possible, with no repercussions. Therefore you could familiarize yourself with the situation so by the time you actually need to face it, it will be so familiar that the anxiety levels decrease.
What if you had a fear of flying? A flight simulator is an important way that pilots train to fly, but using new and improved VR technology could also benefit those who are scared to fly. Virtual reality and aviation go hand in hand from providing in-flight entertainment, to helping individuals kick their fear if flying for good. By monitoring which aspects of flying cause the most anxiety, better advice can be offered to help a person overcome their fears for smoother, stress-free travel.
Try this at home!
Want to see if VR could help you conquer your fears? The truth is that it’s easier to do than you might realize. With your phone and the right VR equipment in your hands, you could be saying goodbye to your fears sooner than you know. Start by browsing some of the best VR apps to help you face your fears. There are apps to improve your public speaking and conquer your fear of heights thanks to Samsung, while the Arachnophobia app could help you overcome your fear of spiders.
It’s worth noting that these apps aren’t for the faint-hearted, and could cause some serious anxiety as part of the process. If you’re unsure of whether or not you should test them out, consult your doctor first – especially if you have severe problems with anxiety.
Overcoming your fears using VR isn’t something that would happen overnight. If it doesn’t work the first time, persevere and keep trying – it’s a marathon, not a sprint after all. Even if it doesn’t work for you to overcome your fears completely, it could be something that at least reduces your anxiety or helps you feel more prepared when entering situations you’re not confident with.
VR is changing things in a big way, and it’s interesting to see the different possibilities it offers. From providing immersive travel experiences to more engaged and interactive gaming, the possibilities are growing all the time. Would you use VR to help you conquer your fears? Download an app and face yours today.