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How to treat the fear of flying with the help of Virtual Reality

About 25% of the population suffers from aerophobia, or the fear of flying. The fear to fly can be a phobia in itself, generally supported by the possibility of suffering an accident; a risk that, however, is less than in any other means of transport, especially the car. Sometimes, however, aerophobia has other components that can aggravate it, such as claustrophobia or irrational fear of height (acrophobia).

How can we solve it?

In a systematic review of research on the use of Virtual Reality for the treatment of aerophobia, they found that The Cognitive Behavioral Therapy combined with relaxation techniques and exposure with Virtual Reality is very effective for the treatment of flying phobia. The effectiveness of the use of virtual reality as the only line of treatment for the phobia to fly in the short-long term has been demonstrated (Botella et al., 2004). Joan Miquel Gelabert Mir, Scientific Director of Psious, adds that "it allows access to situations that would not be possible without the VR or without leaving the consultation, working on scenes as necessary for the patient as takeoffs or landings".

The Virtual Reality allows to reduce in time and costs the psychotherapeutic processes, gaining in efficiency and maintaining the efficiency of the most traditional procedure, that is, the Live Exhibition.

It is a tool especially recommended to treat the phobia to fly, since it is not as expensive or complex as the Live Exhibition, where the patient would have to participate in a real flight; Nor does it depend on the imaginative capacity of the patient, as in the case of the Exposure to Imagination; and also the mental health professional can monitor what the user sees and feels at all times, being more effective and empathetic communication with the patient.

Virtual Reality allows the therapist to control the characteristics of the intervention by personalizing and adjusting it at every moment. Repeating the same scene as many times as the patient considers necessary and making it less or more aversive; modifying the climatic conditions of the scenario or the level of turbulence that they feel.


What do patients think of this therapy? 

The vast majority have a very positive opinion about it. The immersion that occurs with virtual reality is much more effective than training in imagination generally. These are some of the experiences:

The case of Isabel and her successful experience with Virtual Reality

Isabel, who won the Fly and Live contest organized by liligo.com and Psious explains that she had anxiety when flying by plane: "Before, when I arrived at the airport, my fear was such that I would see people coming and going to make sure nothing happened." "The most critical moment was always the takeoff. I began to tremble, it was difficult for me to breathe, and I was not even able to hold a conversation. But all that was left behind". 

The phobia was treated in 8 sessions: 6 standards and 2 review (overlearning) of 30 to 40 minutes. The 85-90% of the session were with Virtual Reality. In this video you can see the experience of Isabel.


Joan Miquel Gelabert explains that the patient is gradually exposed to the environments that she fears from least to most upset and only when she has overcome one of the environments and when she is able to do so. He adds that "psychotherapy is a joint process between patient and therapist in which the second guides the first, directing, orienting and encouraging the second".

José M. and his treatment in a single sessionPsious-aerophobia

Another patient treated particularly by Dr. Gelabert is José M. who achieved the results in a single session of 3h30, applying the Öst variant. In this session of long duration, all the environments of fear to fly of the Psious platform were worked and, very specifically, the turbulences.

Recently, José M. told us the following: "Since we made the treatment I have made several flights and I am very happy because during these flights I have managed to relax and enjoy, I have even thought that I like to fly".

Marta overcame her fear in 4 weeks

Marta is also one of those who overcame her fear of flying thanks to Virtual Reality. "I'm no longer afraid of flying! Thanks to Psious and his therapy with Virtual Reality" Font publishes on his social networks.

From Psious we want to thank all the participants for lending their testimonies and giving voice to their phobias. Our greatest reward is you and see you travel.


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