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Fear and Phobia Research

  1. Is Exposure Therapy with Virtual Reality Preferable to Imaginal Exposure?

    In a small pilot study, researchers from the University of Barcelona in Spain compared the efficacy of Virtual Reality (VR) to the efficacy of Imaginal Exposure (IE) for 15 people suffering from fear of flying (FF).

    It is already established that exposure therapy is the most effective treatment for this kind of phobia, but there are very few studies comparing kinds of exposure therapy.

    This study compared the effectiveness of these two approaches using two manualized interventions based on the exposure technique. Patients with FF (N = 15) were randomly assigned to either VR (n = 7) or IE therapy (n = 8), consisting of a total of eight sessions: two assessment sessions (pre-treatment and after the real flight) and six exposure therapy sessions, which were conducted twice a week.

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  2. Both CBT and EMDR Found to Improve Travel Phobia

    Researchers from the University of Amsterdam in The Netherlands conducted a non-randomized study to evaluate the usefulness of a trauma-focused treatment approach for travel phobia or milder travel anxiety arising as a result of a road traffic accident.
     
    Trauma-focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT), and Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) were used to treat a sample of 184 patients, who were referred to a psychological rehabilitation provider.
     
    Patients in both treatment groups were encouraged to encounter their feared situations between sessions. Travel phobia was officially diagnosed in 57% of cases.

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  3. Those Aussies Create Online Help for Panic Attacks, Too

    Researchers from St. Vincent's Hospital in Sydney, Australia, measured the efficacy of an internet-based, clinician-assisted, cognitive behavioral treatment program (The Panic Program) for panic disorder (with agoraphobia) as compared to waitlist controls…

    Fifty-nine individuals suffering from panic disorder with agoraphobia were randomly assigned to a treatment group or to a waitlist control group. Treatment group participants completed the Panic program, comprising of six on-line lessons, weekly homework assignments, weekly email contact from a psychiatry registrar, and contributed to a moderated online discussion forum with other participants.

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  4. Virtual Reality Delivers Significant Help for Agoraphobia

    Researchers from Hospital Universitario de Canarias, Spain., examined the efficacy of treating agoraphobia with virtual reality techniques as an alternative to the in-vivo exposure component of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy.

    Twenty-seven patients with agoraphobia were randomly distributed into two groups of psychoactive drugs (paroxetine and venlafaxine, AKA  Paxil and Effexor) and into two cognitive- behavioral procedures (with or without exposure to VRET). Seven virtual situations were used.

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  5. Virtual reality therapy versus cognitive behavior therapy for social phobia

    A pilot study out of France shows that virtual reality therapy works well for social phobias, but no better than standard, cognitive behavioral therapy.

    This unique preliminary study out of Caen, France assesses the efficacy of virtual reality therapy (VRT) for alleviating social phobia, since it has been found helpful for fear of public speaking. Virtual reality therapy was compared to a control condition - group cognitive behavioral therapy - where graded exposure to feared social situations is one of the fundamental therapeutic ingredients.

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  6. A self-applied, internet-based intervention for fear of public speaking.

    Investigators at Jaume I University reported their findings on the effectiveness of the "Talk to Me" interactive program on treating fear of public speaking. This internet-based, self-applied intervention has several components, including a diagnostic assessment, a structured treatment, and an outcome protocol that evaluates treatment efficacy in a continuous manner. One case study revealed a significant decrease in levels of fear and avoidance related to speaking in public. However, a pilot study is needed to confirm this promising but inconclusive case study.


    Citation: Botella C, Hofmann SG, Moscovitch DA.A self-applied, Internet-based intervention for fear of public speaking. Journal of Clinical Psychology. 2004 Aug; 60 (8): pages 821-30.

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  7. The treatment of fear of flying: a controlled study of imaginal and virtual reality graded exposure

    A pilot study at Virtual Reality Medical Center comparing the effectiveness of Virtual Reality exposure therapy to systematic desensitization with imaginal exposure therapy for treating flying phobia, shows VR wins hands down.

    A randomized, controlled, pilot study at the Virtual Reality Medical Center in San Diego, compared the efficacy of virtual reality graded exposure therapy (VRGET) with imaginal exposure therapy for the treatment of fear of flying.

    Thirty participants (mean age = 39.8 +/- 9.7) with a confirmed diagnosis of specific phobia fear of flying were randomly assigned to one of three groups: VRGET with no physiological feedback (VRGETno), VRGET with physiological feedback (VRGETpm), or systematic desensitization with imaginal exposure therapy (IET).

     

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  8. Three-year follow-up for virtual reality exposure for fear of flying

    Sorry, all you VR geeks out there! Although Virtual Reality was found effective at helping with fear of flying, 2 studies show it’s no better than imaginal exposure (using the imagination without the equipment), and sometimes not as good.

    Thirty participants who had been treated for aviophobia (fear of flying) with virtual reality graded exposure therapy with physiological monitoring and visual feedback (VRGETpm), virtual reality graded exposure therapy with physiological monitoring only (VRGETno), or imaginal exposure therapy (imagery) with physiological monitoring only (IET) between January 1998 and January 1999 were contacted in January 2002 for a 3-year posttreatment follow-up assessment.

    Of the participants in the VRGETpm group who had flown successfully by the end of treatment, all had maintained their ability to fly at follow-up. Of the participants in the VRGETno group who had flown successfully by the end of treatment, two were no longer able to fly. Of the participants in the IET group who had flown successfully, all were still able to fly. It appears that the imaginal exposure therapy performed as well as one of the VR conditions, and better than the other.

    Citation: Wiederhold BK, Wiederhold MD. Three-Year Follow-Up for Virtual Reality Exposure for Fear of Flying CyberPsychology & Behavior vol 6, no. 4 Page: 441 - 445.

     

     

     

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  9. Dental fear: effects of cognitive therapy, applied relaxation, and nitrous oxide sedation

    One-year follow-up of patients treated for dental fear: effects of cognitive therapy, applied relaxation, and nitrous oxide sedation.

    When sixty-two patients were randomly assigned to nitrous oxide sedation (NO), cognitive therapy (CT), or applied relaxation (AR) therapy, to help them reduce their fear of dental procedures, highly significant reductions in fear and general distress were found in all three groups. Patients in the applied relaxation group showed the greatest benefit and the most dramatic reduction on dental fear measures. One year later a majority (95%) of the participants had undergone dental treatment, and on the whole, showed continued favorable effects. Every subject judged the dental fear treatment to have been beneficial, and 80% reported the treatment successful. All three treatment groups scored in the normative range for general distress both at the end of treatment and at one year follow-up.

    Citation: T. Willumsen, O. Vassend and A. Hoffart. One-year follow-up of patients treated for dental fear: effects of cognitive therapy, applied relaxation, and nitrous oxide sedation. Acta Odontologica Scandinavica. Vol 59; No: 6 Page: 335-340.

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  10. Dental fear: effects of cognitive therapy, applied relaxation, and nitrous oxide sedation.

    When sixty-two patients were randomly assigned to nitrous oxide sedation (NO), cognitive therapy (CT), or applied relaxation (AR) therapy, to help them reduce their fear of dental procedures, highly significant reductions in fear and general distress were found in all three groups. Patients in the applied relaxation group showed the greatest benefit and the most dramatic reduction on dental fear measures. One year later a majority (95%) of the participants had undergone dental treatment, and on the whole, showed continued favorable effects. Every subject judged the dental fear treatment to have been beneficial, and 80% reported the treatment successful. All three treatment groups scored in the normative range for general distress both at the end of treatment and at one year follow-up.

    Citation: Willumsen T, Vassend O, Hoffart A. One-year follow-up of patients treated for dental fear: effects of cognitive therapy, applied relaxation, and nitrous oxide sedation. Acta Odontologica Scandinavica. 2001 Dec; 59(6): 335-40.
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