NO FEAR: THE NZ VIRTUAL REALITY APP HELPING CONQUER PHOBIAS

Updated: Jul 20

Article source: Eva Corlett, The Guardian

In the days leading up to an injection, Julie Raine’s mind would fog over with fear – she was convinced the needle would harm her.


On the day of the injection, after a sleepless night, she would try to calm herself with sugary drinks, music, and soothing words. As the needle went in, she would turn away panic-stricken; and when it was over she would crumple in tears and take a full day to recover. Most of the time, she would skip her appointment altogether.


The New Zealander has battled with trypanophobia– a phobia of needles – for as long as she can remember.


It stopped Raine getting blood tests, prevented her from being vaccinated against Covid-19 and caused her to flee the room where her teenage daughter was about to have a procedure.


Had someone told her that she would be able to get a Covid-19 vaccine without fear and without support, she would have never believed them. But confronting her phobia using virtual reality has transformed her life.


A six-week clinical trial of a phone-based app called oVRcome, which is designed to treat phobias using a combination of mindfulness modules and virtual reality exposure therapy, has been successful, researchers at the University of Otago report in a paper published in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry.