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.

Preliminary results show significant improvements in all the experimental groups. Regarding the psychodrugs (paroxetine and venlafaxine), both significantly improved the symptoms and in regards to the CBT, patients treated with VRET, especially the chronic patients, seem to obtain the best results.

The study concludes that for agoraphobia, combined treatments, including paroxetine, venlafaxine and cognitive-behavioral therapy (with or without VRET), seem to have clear benefits for patients. VRET seem to be a possible and effective treatment for agoraphobic patients, especially for those with chronic agoraphobia.

Citation:  Pitti C, Peñate W, de la Fuente J, Bethencourt J, Acosta L, Villaverde M, Gracia R. [Agoraphobia: combined treatment and virtual reality. Preliminary results] Actas Esp Psiquiatr. 2008 Mar-Apr; 36 (2): pp. 94-101. [email protected]