Fear of Needles and Blood
Needle phobia is the extreme fear and avoidance of needles associated with medical injections. Needle phobia is considered a specific phobia that affects more than 10 % of the population. It is characterized by avoidance of situations associated with medical treatments, including obtaining routine health care. The consequences of such avoidance can be exacerbation of existing medical conditions or delayed diagnosis of serious medical conditions.
The Needle Phobia VR world gives clients the opportunity to practice visiting the doctor’s office where they “experience” various situations related to receiving injections and having blood drawn. The client is gradually exposed to experiences that elicit higher levels of anxiety in careful, controlled stages.
Virtual reality therapy is conducted in the safety of the office, free of real needles and blood, allowing the client to slowly build their skills and confidence. The client is taught relaxation and breathing skills, and physiology is monitored during all phases of therapy to insure that the client does not become too anxious. Real-time Bio-feedback provides the therapist with all of the patient’s vitals, including heart rate, respiration, skin conductance, temperature, electroencephalogram (EEG), and electrocardiogram (ECG). Therapy can then progress at the client’s own pace as anxiety lessens. The optional head mount display (HMD) is equipped with a head tracker that detects the patient’s head rotations and position while navigating through the virtual world.
The VR hospital in which the blood draw procedure occurs is a computerized replica of the Scripps Clinic in San Diego. Navigating with a computer mouse, clients begin the exposure session by crossing the sliding-doors entrance of the virtual clinic. Users can move through the virtual clinic at their own pace. Once inside, clients can navigate pass the reception desk and move to the room where the nurse avatar appears to conduct the blood draw procedure. From the user’s viewpoint, the nurse avatar is faced in front of the patient and draws blood from the patient’s arm.