Most of us can list something we're unreasonably or irrationally afraid of. Be it heights, public speaking or pigeons with their big beady eyes and pecking beaks ready to fly into your head without warning (listen, we all have our things), sometimes our fears develop into a paralyzing anxiety. It might mean we can't walk up stairs, excel in work or sit within 100 yards of the crazy person in the park who thinks it's totally reasonable to throw bread crumbs to flying vermin.
And when we get to that point, virtual reality can be a safe tool for slowly introducing triggers and comfort to a patient to overcome their fears. As we talked about on the previous page, a program called SpiderWorld has been used to treat (you guessed it) arachnophobia. Patients are first introduced to a virtual room with a tarantula, and are coached to move as close to the spider as possible with a joystick. Eventually, they use a sensor on their hand to "touch" a spider in the room (while feeling the tactile sensation of touching from stuffed toy spider). All the actions are repeated until the patient feels a reduced sense of anxiety. (Also note that they use the soundtrack to "Psycho" at one point; these doctors are not messing around when it comes to serious desensitization).
But what about a less specific kind of anxiety? Let's check out the next page to see how virtual reality is being used to treat post-traumatic stress.