Researchers and psychologist have created a "Virtual Iraq" to help veterans deal with post-traumatic stress symptoms associated with their time in the conflict.
Accepted treatment for post-traumatic stress and other phobia disorders involves de-sensitizing sufferers by exposing them to situations that cause the disorder. Which is easy, if you're deathly afraid of cotton balls*, but tougher when your symptoms are caused by the inhumanity, death and fear of modern armed conflict.
Enter video games! Researchers have begun using a modified version of video game Full Spectrum Warrior to recreate traumatic events from combat veterans lives. Doctors can use the game and some 3D goggles to duplicate events, including time of day, sites, sounds and even smells associated with the event., but whether the treatment is actually effective remains to be seen...
Josh Spitalnick, PhD, director of research and clinical services for Virtually Better, the company that developed "Virtual Iraq" and other games designed to treat PTS, said preliminary testing was positive . But more rigorous testing is needed to "fully understand the advantages or disadvantages of using virtual reality as a treatment method."
I'll be further testing will reveal this to be a useful tool. I have a fear of heights (mild), and found that "exposure" to the tops of buildings in Crackdown actually did de-sensitize me after awhile... but only in-game. Plus, after completing Fallout 3, I'm totally no longer afraid of Super Mutants. I'm not sure whether those "gains" would apply to real life. What do you think? Could video games actually help people be less fearful?
*Yes, some people are afraid of cotton balls. Proof: