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New Mexico Rep. Dianne Hamilton will spend a 2013 legislature meeting trying to sell Texas officials on a virtual reality treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder, the Ruidoso News reported. Hamilton, whose husband and three children are all military veterans, discovered the program and sought funding during a 2012 session, but her requests were denied. This year, she hopes to secure $250,000 in funding to kickstart the program.
Thoughcover differing types of PTSD treatment, Hamilton’s bill is one of the first of its kind. The motion would create state legislation to embrace virtual reality as a treatment for PTSD. The simulation program takes vets back to troubling moments in their own experience, re-exposing them to the harsh realities of active duty and forcing them to deal with haunting memories.
“We know it works,” Hamilton told the source. “With three computers and some headgear, it’s pretty simple to establish.”
The program has a remarkably low cost, as the $250,000 only needs to be allocated over a period of four years. The funds go toward research, as well as the purchasing of computer and simulation equipment. The program’s research would be based at Western New Mexico University, and the state Department of Veteran Services would partner with the university to implement a pilot program. Even vets living in rural areas would benefit from the program, as they would be treated via mobile virtual reality devices.
Virtual reality seems like an effective treatment for PTSD, as many sufferers report that their condition is triggered by everyday sights, sounds and smells. The Ruidoso News used the example of a garbage-strewn street, which might take a veteran back to bad memories of active duty in a Middle Eastern city.
“The people coming back from this war say that more than sights and more than sounds, smells seem to be what’s triggering their traumatic events,” Dr. Deborah Beidel of the University of Central Florida Anxiety Disorders Clinic told ABC affiliate WFTV.
UCF is another university pioneering research in virtual reality‘s ability to treat PTSD. The university’s theory is that repeated exposure to common triggers might help veterans deal with and recognize the triggers, which could help them cope in the long term and function more normally in civilian society.
UCF also acknowledged that virtual therapy is only a piece of the puzzle: Veterans suffering from PTSD should also participate in therapy and group discussion.