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Virtual reality exposure using three-dimensional images for the treatment of social phobia

Cristiane M. Gebara, Tito P. de Barros-Neto, Leticia Gertsenchtein, Francisco Lotufo-Neto
Programa Ansiedade (AMBAN), Departamento de Psiquiatria, Hospital das Clínicas da Faculdade de Medicina da Universidade de São Paulo, São Paulo, SP, Brazil.

Objective: To test a potential treatment for social phobia, which provides exposure tophobia-inducing situations via computer-generated, three-dimensional images, using an open clinical trial design. Methods: Twenty-one patients with a DSM-IV diagnosis of social phobia took part in the trial. Treatment consisted of up to 12 sessions of exposure to relevant images, each session lasting 50 minutes.
Results: Improvements in social anxiety were seen in all scales and instruments used, including atfollow-up 6 months after the end of treatment. The average number of sessions was seven, as the participants habituated rapidly to the process. Only one participant dropped out.
Conclusion: This study provides evidence that exposure to computer-generated three-dimensionalimages is relatively inexpensive, leads to greater treatment adherence, and can reduce social anxiety. Further studies are needed to corroborate these findings.

Keywords: Social phobia; cognitive behavioral therapy; virtual reality exposure; anxiety

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