Virtual Reality Shows Promise as Stress Disorder Treatment

After a dozen virtual reality sessions, King is no longer showing the symptoms of PTSD or taking medication, and says he's come a long way from the days when he couldn't cross the Brooklyn Bridge.

"I said, 'Holy smokes, I'm never going want to go into the city again -- go over a bridge, go into a tunnel or whatever,'" he said, pausing. "And I can do those things now."

Difide says that while the preliminary data is excellent, the effectiveness of virtual reality therapy hasn't yet been proven scientifically. But she is pleasantly surprised at how well it works in the patients she has treated.

"As a scientist, I'm still trying to study it and figure it out," she said. "We think it works, but why?"

The military's study of virtual reality will also address the issue of whether the treatment works better than traditional therapies. About 20 military personnel have been treated so far by Spira, who says about 160 patients are expected to receive the therapy over the course of the four-year study. Already, he is encouraged.

"This really speeds up their progress, much faster than traditional talk therapy has been able to do," said Spira, who points out that the more traditional course of talk therapy lasts a couple of years. In contrast, Spira reports the virtual reality treatment has been able to help people beat PTSD in about three months.

For Joshua Frey, that day can't come too soon.

"Before I couldn't move and I didn't want to move. I just wanted to sit there and just dwell and just think and be depressed," he said. "And now I'm actually doing things, going out for walks, getting out and trying to be around people. I want to go back to just being happy and just relaxing, and living in the now and not in the past."

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