Fear of heights can be beaten by using virtual reality to simulate being perched on a 10th-floor balcony, a study claims.
Psychiatrists at Oxford University tested the therapy on 100 volunteers who had the phobia for an average of 30 years.
They put on VR headsets and were “taken” to an office building, where they started low before gradually getting higher.
Tasks included crossing a rickety walkway, rescuing a cat and playing the xylophone on the edge of the virtual 10th floor.
More than three-quarters were later shown to have reduced their anxieties by half.
“We designed the treatment to be as imaginative, entertaining, and easy to navigate as possible,” Professor Daniel Freeman from Oxford University said. “So the tasks the participants were asked to complete included crossing a rickety walkway, rescuing a cat from a tree in the building’s atrium, painting a picture and playing a xylophone on the edge of a balcony, and finally riding a virtual whale around the atrium space!”
‘The results are extraordinarily good,” Freeman continued. “We were confident the treatment would prove effective, but the outcomes exceeded our expectations. ”
VR could tackle other issues such as depression and addictions, Freeman added.
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