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Can Virtual Reality Cure Depression?

This New Study Says Yes.

How many times have you heard the phrase, “Be good to yourself?” Well, a new study published by the Royal College of Psychiatrists has found that being good, being compassionate toward, yourself can significantly decrease personal depression?  But what is it that makes this practice different from every self-help book we’ve ever read (or been encouraged to read)?

Psychology professor, Dr. Chris Brewin, told The Huffington Post that “Self-compassion is important in soothing feelings of distress, and without it distress can escalate and become unbearable. We now know that many patients with depression and other disorders have real problems in being compassionate towards themselves, although they are often very good at being compassionate to others.”

So how are Brewin and his team encouraging self-compassion in today’s millenials?

Brewin is leading research targeting self-criticism, as depressed people are often suffering from low self esteem, and as a result, blaming and punishing themselves for what they perceive as personal behaviors and actions with negative effects.

The experiment includes 15 adult subjects (all suffering from depression) participating in therapy sessions, three times a week.  The participants alternate between acting as therapist and patient using a virtual reality headset and body motion sensors.  

While wearing the VR equipment, each assumed the role of a compassionate adult, affirming and consoling a stressed child. They would then switch places with the child, hearing their previous expressed compassion, in their own voice.

Following the three-week program, nine of the 15 participants reported a decrease in symptoms of depression while four reported even more significant mental health improvements.

Although Brewin and team have several other components to test, and eventually must move to a larger experiment pool, their results show a viable option for the future of therapy and self-help. Imagine skipping the therapist, avoiding all the external retreats, books, and encouraging words, and literally, healing yourself with your own words. You could get in a dose of self-love before work, on the way to the gym, even before a big date.

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