Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) threatens to overload healthcare and social support systems worldwide as the number of cases rises and existing treatments are not sufficiently effective. New approaches to treatment are relying on technology, such as virtual reality, to alleviate the psychologically damaging effects of PTSD, and these innovative solutions are explored in a special issue of Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking.
PTSD is common in soldiers returning from combat duty and may also result from sexual or physical assault, imprisonment or hostage situations, terrorism, surviving an accident or disaster, or diagnosis with a life-threatening illness. Conventional approaches to treatment, including antidepressant medication and psychotherapy, yield unacceptable recovery rates.
Exposure therapy has been recognized as a highly promising method for treating patients with PTSD. Rather than relying on patients' visualization skills to "relive" the traumatic experience, technological strategies such as virtual reality (VR) provide a controlled environment in which patients can experience a situation or scenario while learning to cope with their emotional responses.
Virtual reality has the potential to play an important role in treating survivors of mass casualty disasters, for example. Countries can implement this tool and the available handheld VR technology as part of a comprehensive plan to respond to the mental health needs of mass casualty survivors.
"We are so fortunate in being able to learn from our patients who give us invaluable feedback and important information so that we may continuously improve treatment protocols" says Dr. Brenda K. Wiederhold, PhD, MBA, BCIA, Editor-in-Chief of Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, from the Interactive Media Institute, San Diego, CA. "We thank those who have shared their memories and experiences for the benefit of others."