Virtual Reality and serious games in treatment of social phobia

Title:Virtual Reality and serious games in treatment of social phobia
Institute:University of Twente (HMI)
Place:Enschede The Netherlands
Type:final project
Start date:1 oktober 2016
End date:not present
Active student:Karolina Niechwiadowicz
HMI ContactDirk Heylen


Psychiatric disorders are becoming a serious health challenge in the coming years. Anxiety disorder is the most common one - in 2011, 69.1 million people in European Union were suffering from it, with social anxiety affecting 10.1 million people in EU. The treatment of social phobia can be very complicated and costly, given the necessity to recreate and repeat certain social situations. This is why the Virtual Reality (VR) is becoming a more popular tool for treatment, where the exposure can be adjusted to patient's needs, it is more safe, controllable, and cost effective. It is so far proven to be as effective as the conventional treatment- Cognitive- Behavioural Therapy (CBT).

Most of the research, however, focuses on specific phobias such as fear of public speaking, while social phobia is more complex and can affect any of the social situations. Therefore the goal of this thesis is to create a new tool for treatment, where variety of social situations are implemented in the VR. The participants will be able to experience those using a head mounted display, navigate through the space and interact with the virtual characters (avatars). Moreover the therapy will be introduced in form of a game with different levels of difficulty, varying in degree of exposure and interaction, where participants would have to, for example, look the avatar in the eye. Additionally, the structure of a game goes in line with the traditional CBT, where patients are gradually exposed to the feared stimuli.