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Hospital Particular da Madeira


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Madeira Medical Center


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Virtual Reality in the Treatment of Phobias

The prevalence of different phobias (Acrophobia - heights -, Arachnophobia - spiders -, Glossophobia - public speaking -, Agoraphobia - open spaces -, Aerophobia - flying) is very variable, but they all share real physical signs of fear and panic: tachycardia, shortness of breath, tremors, cold sweats, dry mouth, insomnia.

There are several therapies to combat or decrease phobias. In recent years, Virtual Reality, with 3D glasses and bio feedback monitoring (self-regulation through physiological measures) have shown good results.

The purpose behind the exposure treatment is to gradually face the feared situations, in order to practice the appropriate response so that the reactions are rational and adaptive to the situation, basically creating the opportunity to acquire skills and interpret the condition as non-threatening.


The fact that the treatment is carried out through Virtual Reality induces the feeling of security in the individual, as they are in a controlled environment, although the brain reacts as if the environment were real.

During therapy, the patient learns to identify the elements that led them to fear the situation, as well as the confrontation strategies to break the dysfunctional cycles. In the experience of virtual exposure, confrontation strategies are practiced until the person feels comfortable enough to leave the virtual space and perform these situations in real life, using these new learnings.

9th April 2021

9, April 2021