To overcome a fear of flying or other phobia, a therapist may ask you to slip on special goggles – and slip into the world of virtual reality.
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Amanda Bergin: Is there something you are really scared of? You are not alone. It's estimated 10% of all adults have some sort of phobia. Treatment usually involves exposing patients to the very situations they are afraid of. Hofstra University's Saltzman Center in New York is one of many places around the country where therapists are using exposure therapy with a virtual twist. Fear of flying is a common phobia, one that I happen to share. This virtual reality helmet is going to simulate the entire flying experience, from start to finish. Okay, here we go. A therapist is guiding me through the entire process. He is speaking into a microphone that's wired into the helmet. Male Speaker: Alright, let's pull up that seat belt, they are closing up the doors. Amanda Bergin: This is not fun. The flight is made as realistic as possible, thanks to a chair that shakes when bad weather hits, including realistic flashes of lightening. Male Speaker: How are you feeling right now Amanda? Amanda Bergin: Oh! I feel anxiety. But what if your fear of storms isn't just during flight. This program is designed to ease panic brought on by storms. Anything from just the sight of thunder clouds to being alone during a storm, to hot flashes of lightening and loss of electricity. It was developed after Hurricane Katrina and includes fear of flooding. Now I am trapped in the attic as water is rushing into my house. For some people, it's not experiences but social situations that frighten up, like public speaking, excuse me, my audience awaits. For this the software can create a number of scenarios. People looking bored or talking, even cellphones ringing, how rude? He even gets up and walks away. All designed to numb me to the worst case scenarios possible. Ah! Virtual reality therapy is effective for about 92% of the patients who seek treatment at the phobia and trauma clinic. It takes about 6-12 sessions to complete, but before these patients can be cured, they have to face their fears head on, which means taking a flight, riding out a storm or making a speech. I am Amanda Bergin with Tech Check.