In vivo, systematic desensitization has been effective in the treatment of agoraphobia. Currently, computer and display technology allow the creation of virtual reality environments. Virtual reality therapy (VRT), based on this sophisticated technology, has been used in the treatment of subjects who have been diagnosed with agoraphobia, a disorder that is defined as an extreme, irrational fear of being in places or situations from which escape might be difficult or embarrassing. These studies, however, are limited in scope, having been conducted by using subjective tools to measure the effectiveness of therapy. The goal of this study was to evaluate the effectiveness of VRT by using not only the subjective tools but also several objective ones, such as blood pressure, respiration, and heart rate. A virtual environment tunnel scene with traffic jam was created for this study; this scene was rated as one of the most fearful situations for our patients. The study included seven subjects who were diagnosed with panic disorder with agoraphobia using the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV) criteria. The data failed to support the efficacy of the objective measures. Improving the immersion process and the objective measures for evaluating the effectiveness of VRT for agoraphobics appears to be a reasonable research strategy.
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