Do you have patients with eating disorders? Learn how to treat them with Virtual Reality

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Did you know that more than 70 million people around the world suffer from an eating disorder?

What's more, 1 in 5 women is affected by an eating disorder. That's why today on the blog we want to talk about how to treat these patients with Virtual Reality.

Treat eating disorders with Virtual reality

The eating disorders, also known as Eating Behavior Disorders (EBD), can be treated very effectively with Virtual Reality. It is a tool particularly beneficial in cases of  Bulimia Nervosa (BN), Nervous Anorexia (AN) and Binge Eating Disorder (BED).

Scientific support 

The effectiveness of Virtual Reality is demonstrated by several studies and it can be used to treat various factors. It works as an exposure therapy to reduce the desire or impulse towards food and to normalize eating patterns, as well as to help patients to be aware of their distortion of their own body image, to confront and correct such distortion, get a more realistic perception and reduce dissatisfaction with one’s own body.

Furthermore, there are several psychologists and health centers that have already used this environment to work on Eating Behavior Disorders with Psious.

How does the eating disorder scenario work

In Psious we have the scenario of Dressing Room to work through cognitive restructuring the distortion of body image. How do we do it?

Firstly, the therapist configures a human avatar with the real body dimensions of the patient. Next, during the session, they will ask the patient to module the body dimensions of the avatar according to how he or she perceives himself or herself. In this way, the therapist will be able to superimpose both silhouettes and the patient can observe and check on his own the difference (and therefore, the distortion) that there is between the perception of his own body and how it really is.

Another advantage of using this environment in Virtual Reality is that can function as exposure therapy to their own body. Patients often feel anxiety when they are asked to weigh them, measure certain parts of the body, expose them in front of the mirror, etc. We can avoid that with Virtual Reality. Furthermore, with the biofeedback sensor you can automatically control the physiological response and there is also the option of asking the subjective units of distress (SUDs) experienced by the patient throughout the exercise.

Another positive aspect about this tool is that it allows you to configure several variables to customize avatars to the maximum: gender, skin color, height, neck, chest, waist, hips and legs. The therapist can select each part of the body -from very narrow to very width- following the table of equivalences that we show next:

Psious - Eating disorders - Table of equivalences

As for the patient, they can change the body dimensions of the avatar with the plus (+) and minus (-) symbols. In this way, each part of his body (neck, chest, waist, hip and legs) can be adapted to the detail.

Personalize body dimensons - Psious eating disorders

And as we explained earlier, the Compare avatars option will allow superimposing the avatar generated by the therapist with the one performed by the patient. The difference between the two will allow us to see the degree of distortion of the body image. Also, the therapist will receive detailed information about the percentage of distortion of the patient at a general level and know which part or parts of the body presents a greater distortion. Thus we can see the general level of distortion and also see the areas that present a greater "patient deviation".

Psious eating disorders - Compare avatars to see the percentage of distortion of the patient

It should be noted that in Psious we have Instructions Manuals for each virtual environment available to our customers. There you can see in detail an explanation of each scenario, a treatment protocol with guides, steps to follow in each session, recommendations for use and recommended bibliography. In addition to videos, courses and case studies. Obviously, it is an information of an advisory nature that the health professional can evaluate and intervene according to the needs and characteristics of each user.

And you, have you already used Psious to treat EBD? As always, you can leave us your opinions on our social media sites. We love to listen your experiences!


The Renfrew Center Foundation for Eating Disorders, (published September 2002, revised October 2003). "Eating Disorders 101 Guide: A Summary of Issues, Statistics and Resources,"
National Institute of Mental Health’s (NIMH) guide, Eating Disorders: Facts About Eating Disorders and the Search for Solutions

Gutiérrez-Maldonado et al., 2016; Lafond, Riva, Gutierrez-Maldonado, & Wiederhold, 2016; Lozano et al, 2002; Marco, Perpiñá & Botella, 2013; Manzoni et al, 2013; Manzoni et al, 2016; Perpiñá, Botella & Baños, 2003; Perpiñá et al., 2013; Pla- Sanjuanelo et al., 2015; Riva, 2011: Riva et al, 1999; Wiederhold, Riva, & Gutiérrez-Maldonado, 2016).

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