image Can New Virtual Reality Really Kick Depression’s Ass?

The “D” word. The word that nobody wants to talk about. Yet, it’s real. So real that by “2014 more than 6.6 % of the American adult population had experienced a major depressive bout (lasting 2 weeks or longer) atleast once,” according to MedicalNewsToday.comimg-whyfomo-sad-girl

“In 2013, 1 in 10 Americans was taking an antidepressant. Among women in their 40s and 50s the stats are a staggering 1 in 4.  Depression is common, and economic struggles have added to our stress and anxiety. Television ads promote antidepressants, and insurance plans usually cover them, even while limiting talk therapy. But a recent study suggests another explanation: that the condition is being over-diagnosed on a remarkable scale”, according to The New York Times/blog. If you have healthcare, or television, it’s likely that somebody somewhere is going to try to sell you an antidepressant. And since we are now being forced to have healthcare, this pretty much includes EVERYBODY. Catching my drift? When it comes to American Foster Children, they are ridiculously at risk for being over-diagnosed. In the states surveyed by the GAO, “39% of the foster care children aged 0-17 on Medicaid were prescribed at least one psychiatric drug. By comparison, 10 % of non-foster care children in Massachusetts were prescribed at least one psychotropic medication under Medicaid with other states percentages tailing right behind, including Texas at 32.2%”, says the HuffingtonPost.comimg-whyfomo-pills-dollar

Dr. Sanjay Gupta reports: accidental prescription drug overdose is “the leading cause of acute preventable death for Americans.” So…A MULTI-BILLION DOLLAR INDUSTRY IS THE LEADING CAUSE OF ACUTE PREVENTABLE DEATH FOR AMERICANS? And we pay taxes to support a system that directly funds this deathtrap targeting adults, infants, and children with Medicaid/Obama Care/Private insurance with prescription coverages? This can be an entire blog series in itself. img-whyfomo-sad-child

Now back to our topic: depression. Some people, including children, are seriously depressed. How can we begin to help cure this mind disease without antidepressants and antipsychotics? How can we help people overcome self-destructive criticism and blame and embody more compassion towards themselves? A new study published last week in the British Journal of Psychiatry Opensuggests that Virtual Reality Therapy may be able to do just that.IMG-whyfomo-virtual-reality(Photo via University College London)

With a team of researchers from University College London and the University of Barcelona, Brewin and his colleague developed an 8 minute scenario in which 15 patients underwent VR Therapy, repeated once a week for 3 weeks. 10 of these patients were taking antidepressants, the others were seeking therapy. First, participants wearing a VR headset are embodied as the adult sized avatar in which they practiced delivering compassionate words and gestures to console a crying child. Participants then embodied the child avatar and received the same compassionate message directed to themselves.img-whyfomo-girl-dancing-field

The results: one month after therapy 9 of the patients reported reduced depressive symptoms, and 4 experienced a significant drop in severity. According to British Clinical Psychologist Dr. Chris Brewin,”We think the responses people have to the [VR] scenario are automatic and may bypass resistance to experiencing self-compassion, or to accepting compassion from a therapist,” Brewin said. “VR can also be accessed remotely and may be useful for people who don’t want to see a therapist or feel too ashamed to do this”, TheHuffingtonPost.com. He says “people with depressive symptoms have very negative self-talk that plays on a loop inside of their heads. He wanted to break his patients out of their cycle of abuse, but telling them that they are wrong about themselves doesn’t work. The simulator allows them to experience how receiving compassion feels.”

The conclusion: interventions using virtual reality avatars and embodiment may have considerable clinical potential and further development of these methods with a control group is now warranted. (photo via pixabay.com)

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