Teens who have been prescribed anti-anxiety medications may be more likely to abuse those drugs

stressed teen

Teens who have been prescribed anti-anxiety or sleep medications may be 12 times more likely to abuse those drugs than teens who have never received a prescription, finds a researchconducted at the University of Michigan.

Looking at data over three years from more than 2,700 high school and middle school students, researchers found that almost 9 percent of the students had been prescribed a potentially addictive benzodiazepine for treating anxiety or sleep problems at some time in their lives.

Just over 3 percent of students had a current prescription during the study, and those students were 10 times more likely than students who never had a prescription to obtain anti-anxiety or sleep medications for nonmedical reasons, such as experimenting or getting high.

Students who were prescribed anti-anxiety medications before the three-year study but no longer had a prescription were 12 times more likely to use someone else’s anti-anxiety medication than students who had never received a prescription.

Researchers also found that white students were twice as likely as black students to use the medications without a prescription.

In VRMI, we use an alternative to method to help people to clam down their anxiety, find out more here.

INTERSTRESS project

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Through various techniques, such as relaxation, visualization, biofeedback and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT),  stress management therapy can help to overcome the negative effects of stress. The INTERSTRESS project had a looked more closely on CBT protocols for treatment and prevention of psychological stress and burnout. This 3-year research study funded under the FP7 program by DG-CONNECT, European Commission, was completed in February 2014, and deliver us here its findings.

 

 

In the standard CBT protocol for stress management, imagination and/or exposure evoke emotions, and the meaning of the associated feelings can be changed through reflection and relaxation. The INTERSTRESS project went a step beyond:  allowing participants (school teachers and nurses) to control experiences that evoke emotions, resulting in meaningful new feelings, which can then be considered and ultimately changed through reflection and relaxation.  Allowing the participants to be actively involved, with a measure of control, helped to improve self-confidence and self-efficacy.

Although traditional CBT focuses directly on modifying dysfunctional thoughts through a rational and deliberate process, INTERSTRESS focused on modification through a more contextualized, experiential process. In the INTERSTRESS training, individuals were actively involved in the learning process, experiencing stressful situations reproduced in virtual environments and reflecting on the stress level in their daily life with the help of advanced technology, Virtual Reality, Smartphones and biofeedback sensors.

 

 

From a clinical point of view, the INTERSTRESS solution offers the following advantages to existing traditional CBT protocols for stress management:

  1. integrated and quantitative assessment of the user’s stress level using biosensors and behavioral analysis: the level of stress is continuously assessed in the virtual world by recording the participant’s behavioral and emotional status;
  2. provision of motivating feedback to improve self-awareness, compliance and long-term outcomes. (Participants receive feedback of their emotional and physical state to improve their appraisal and coping skills in an engaging and motivating fashion.)

 

 

Virtual Reality Medical Institute, VRMI, was the Dissemination Exploitation Workpackage Leader for the INTERSTRESS Project as well as a Clinical Partner and leader of the Marketing Trials.  We are now proud to announce that we are the first provider of the INTERSTRESS solution in a private practice setting, proving that positive research achieved can be successfully translated into real world settings, helping individuals achieve relief long after the project is complete.

We offer these services in Belgium, California and China.  For more information on locations please visit our contact page at:  https://vrphobia.eu/contact or email us at research @ vrphobia.eu.

 

For more information on the research and the treatment, a Pdf is available here.

Posttraumatic stress disorder

PTSD2

 

Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) may develop when a person goes through one or more traumatic events such as sexual assault, serious injury, narrowly escaping death, domestic violence or watching a fellow soldier die on the battlefield. People with PTSD typically suffer from disturbing recurring flashbacks, hyperarousal, bad dreams, frightening thoughts, emotional numbness and strong feelings of depression, guilt and worry.

 

 

Exposure therapy, a Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) technique, is the most widely employed tool to help victims manage PTSD symptoms. By helping patients to confront—rather than avoid—the memory of the traumatic event, exposure therapy techniques support the ability to overcome anxieties and fears. Using other relaxation techniques, victims slowly gain control over responses to traumatic events and learn to cope in a much better way. Exposure therapy has been found to be very effective in treating PTSD, and has a high success rate in treating patients with specific phobias.

Virtual reality, with its advanced visual immersion devices, specially programmed computers, and three-dimensional artificially created virtual environments, takes exposure therapy to a whole new level—allowing the patient to confront a traumatic experience in a safe and controlled manner.

 

 

The most extensive research regarding the applications for VR-based therapy for treating posttraumatic stress disorder was funded by the Office of Naval Research, starting in 2005. This initiative was part of a program to develop new technologies to assist combat veterans of Iraq/Afghanistan in managing PTSD symptoms.

Using new software, hardware, simulations, physiologic monitoring (biofeedback), skills training and therapeutic methods based on Virtual Reality, VRMC (Virtual Reality Medical Institute’s California-based affiliate), designed,  developed, tested and clinically validated VR and biofeedback in a randomized clinical trial carried out at Balboa Naval Hospital and Camp Pendleton Marine Base in Southern California.  The development began after holding focus groups with returning military men and women, to bring in the content and cues that were most important to them as the end users.

The advantage of this VR-based Graded Exposure Therapy (VR-GET) is that it helps patients who find it difficult to identify or talk about a traumatic event—which impacts the ability to learn the required skills to cope with a number of anxiety-inducing situations.

In this setting, the combat veteran relives the traumatic episode in a simulation that captures the essential elements of the event—all in a safe and controlled manner—while trying to recognize and manage any excessive autonomic arousal and cognitive reactivity.

 

 

 

VRMC’s  VR system and protocols are now in use in active duty and veteran’s facilities throughout the U.S. as well as in Poland and Croatia, to serve coalition troops.  It is now with great pride that we announce that Virtual Reality Medical Institute, VRMI, will be the first to offer this treatment in Western Europe.  For more information, or to schedule a consultation session, please email us at research @  vrphobia.eu.

 

 

 

Press release

Experts say fear of flying is treatable

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NBA rookie Royce White disclosed that he is afraid to fly and said he expects to travel by bus to play in at least some of the basketball games for his team, the Houston Rockets.

But psychologists who treat fear of flying and travelers who’ve overcome it hope he’ll ditch the bus and get help instead.

“The treatments we have for this are so effective for fear of flying that upwards of 80 percent and sometimes even more people who get the treatment can fly,” said psychologist Todd Farchione, of Boston University’s Center for Anxiety and Related Disorders, echoing statistics offered by other experts.

Farchione says fear of flying treatment consists of a “fairly standard” combination of cognitive and behavioral therapy. That includes identifying the patient’s “fear-provoking thoughts” and challenging them, then getting the patient to “gradually confront” the fear, by imagining flying and then doing it. Some programs use flight simulators or virtual reality programs; others put patients on airplanes on the ground and in the air, accompanied by counselors.

Either way, “the core of treatment is exposure” to the sensations of flying, said psychologist John Hart, who treats fear of flying at the Menninger Clinic in Houston, where patients can use a flight simulator that “has noise and shakes your chair.”

“It’s like the cockpit of a plane, with video screens that look like windows and show the ground and various airports,” Hart says. “It vibrates, bounces, takes off and lands and has different kinds of weather.”

Lisa Fabrega, a detox and lifestyle coach who lives in North Bergen, N.J., was cured by a Freedom to Fly workshop at White Plains Hospital’s Anxiety & Phobia Treatment Center in White Plains, N.Y. The program included sitting in a plane on the ground at a small airport and meeting a retired American Airlines captain.

“We got to bombard him with our most paranoid questions,” Fabrega said.

Before she took the class, she said, “even thinking about getting on a plane would make me break into a sweat.” She learned to visualize herself on a plane and deal with her feelings.

The White Plains program also encourages various types of exposure therapy, like riding a Ferris wheel, the Empire State Building’s SkyRide attraction or the aerial tramway over the East River from Manhattan to Roosevelt Island. The final session is a commercial flight to a nearby city and back. The program costs about $1,500 but is often covered by insurance for outpatient therapy.

Fabrega said half her family is from Panama and she was missing weddings and other events because she was afraid to fly. If she did fly, she said, “I had to be knocked out with Xanax.”

Now she routinely flies, drug-free, around the world.

Hart, of the Menninger Clinic, says medicating yourself with Xanax, used to treat anxiety and panic disorders, is a bad idea for phobic fliers because it “can actually interfere with the process” of coping with anxiety. The Menninger program consists of a one-day workshop followed by up to six months of exposure therapy and counseling that includes helping people with coping skills and changing their beliefs about air travel and using statistics and safety information with pilots going over how planes are built and flown.

Experts say many of those who fear flying have underlying fears of heights or claustrophobia. Some sufferers trace their fears to a stormy flight or other bad experience, but many don’t know why they’re afraid. Some experts say anxiety may run in families; others say some people are sensitive to turbulence, perhaps because of differences in the vestibular system, which controls balance.

While some patients worry about crashing, others fear nausea, vomiting or even heart attacks. They feel trapped on planes, fear “loss of control” and have “anxiety about their anxiety,” said Farchione, whose approach to treating flight phobia was featured on the PBS show “This Emotional Life.”

Hart says the sufferers don’t like it when the plane door closes and the cabin is pressurized.

“It’s not like a car: You can’t stop and get out,” Hart explained.

Challenging fearful thoughts is key.

“How likely is the plane going to crash? It’s much safer than driving or taking the bus,” said Farchione. And when symptoms of anxiety begin, patients are taught that it may feel frightening, “but you’re not going to die. The plane is not crashing.”

Farchione noted that White is not the only sports figure to go public with flight phobia. Retired NFL coach and sports commentator John Madden famously traveled by bus, his customized Madden Cruiser, to avoid planes.

At the Virtual Reality Medical Center, which has offices in Los Angeles and Brussels and has treated more than 1,000 people in 15 years, patients don headsets and sensors and are immersed in a 360-degree, three-dimensional visual and auditory computer simulation of air travel, from packing to security to boarding and taking flight. The software simulates night or day, various weather conditions and turbulence. The immersion is paired with sensors that measure breathing, heart and perspiration rates so patients can learn to recognize and handle symptoms of anxiety. The treatment costs about $2,000 and takes eight to 10 sessions.

Physician Mark Wiederhold, who runs Virtual Reality with his wife, Brenda, says for most people the anxiety will never completely vanish, “but you can learn to cope with it.”

John E. DiScala, better known as the travel writer and blogger Johnny Jet, flies constantly, but as a 17-year-old, he had an anxiety attack before boarding a plane for a trip to Australia with his mom and didn’t fly for three years. As an asthma sufferer, he says, “my fear was not being in control. What will happen if I have an asthma attack in the air?”

A few years later, someone gave him a ticket to visit a friend in Tucson, Ariz. Emboldened by a positive horoscope, he decided to “give it a shot” and got through that flight and a second one to Los Angeles for a family funeral.

“I got over my fear of flying, but I’m always aware of that anxiety, even though I fly more than 150,000 miles a year,” he said. “If I can do it, anybody can do it.”

For Caitlin Condon, who works in tech communications in Cambridge, Mass., information was key in coping with flight phobia.

“Planes are this crazy magical thing,” she said. “You’re flying 500 mph in a pressurized tube, seven miles above the earth.”

She did a lot of research online, using sites like Flyingwithoutfear.com and threads about air travel on the knowledge-sharing site Quora. Now she can get on a plane whenever she wants.

“Flying,” she said, “is the safest way to travel except for elevators.”

This article originally was published in foxnews.

Silicon Valley Technology Innovation & Entrepreneurship Forum

swift

Chief Technology Officer of The Virtual Reality Medical Center Lingjun Kong participated in the Silicon Valley Technology Innovation & Entrepreneurship Forum (SVIEF) on 27 September 2014. SVIEF is an international conference designed to foster innovation and promote business partnerships connecting the US and Asia-Pacific regions. It is a leading venue in the high-tech industry field which gathers multi-tech and business professionals, while providing a platform for talent, technology, and capital exchange. The 2014 SVIEF was designed to be intense and informative, with the theme on “Global Vision of Innovation: Cross-Border and Disrupt”. The primary goal of this conference was to bring together global technology leaders as well as friends and partners, such as the US and China, with an efficient platform for communication and networking, as well as letting the world know the power of the cross-border cooperation in the technology sector.

Internet Addiction Affects 6% of People Worldwide

cyber

Internet addiction is an impulse-control problem marked by an inability to inhibit Internet use, which can adversely affect a person’s life, including their health and interpersonal relationships. The prevalence of Internet addiction varies among regions around the world, as shown by data from more than 89,000 individuals in 31 countries analyzed for a study published in Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, a peer-reviewed journal from Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., publishers. The article is available free on the Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking website until January 18, 2015.
In the article “Internet Addiction Prevalence and Quality of (Real) Life: A Meta-Analysis of 31 Nations Across Seven World Regions,” Cecelia Cheng and Angel Yee-lam Li, The University of Hong Kong, present 164 Internet addiction prevalence figures, with an overall global prevalence estimate of 6.0%. Prevalence ranged from a low of 2.6% in Northern and Western Europe to a high of 10.9% in the Middle East. The authors describe factors associated with higher Internet addiction prevalence and how it relates to individuals’ quality of life.
“This study provides initial support for the inverse relationship between quality of life and Internet Addiction (IA). It, however, finds no support for the hypothesis that high Internet accessibility (such as the high penetration rates in northern and western Europe), promote IA,” says Editor-in-Chief Brenda K. Wiederhold, PhD, MBA, BCB, BCN, Interactive Media Institute, San Diego, California and Virtual Reality Medical Institute, Brussels, Belgium.

Virtual Reality-Based Therapy Can Help Overcome PTSD and Other Disorders

In the recent past, virtual reality has attracted much attention as a potential method for psychotherapy to treat patients with phobias, addictions, anxiety disorders andposttraumatic stress disorder. Various techniques based on virtual reality—such asvirtual reality immersion therapy (VRIT), and virtual reality graded exposure therapy (VR-GET)—have been experimented with and proven to be very effective.

Posttraumatic Stress Disorder and Exposure Therapy

Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) may develop when a person goes through one or more traumatic events such as sexual assault, serious injury, narrowly escaping death, domestic violence or watching a fellow soldier die on the battlefield.

People with PTSD typically suffer from disturbing recurring flashbacks, hyperarousal, bad dreams, frightening thoughts, emotional numbness and strong feelings of depression, guilt and worry.

Exposure therapy, a Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) technique, is the most widely employed tool to help victims manage PTSD symptoms. By helping patients to confront—rather than avoid—the memory of the traumatic event, exposure therapy techniques support the ability to overcome anxieties and fears.

Using other relaxation techniques, victims slowly gain control over responses to traumatic events and learn to cope in a much better way. Exposure therapy has been found to be very effective in treating PTSD, and has a high success rate in treating patients with specific phobias.

Virtual Reality Exposure Therapy

Virtual reality, with its advanced visual immersion devices, specially programmed computers, and three-dimensional artificially created virtual environments, takes exposure therapy to a whole new level—allowing the patient to confront a traumatic experience in a safe and controlled manner.

The most extensive research regarding the applications for VR-based therapy for treating posttraumatic stress disorder was funded by the Office of Naval Research, starting in 2005. This initiative was part of a program to develop new technologies to assist combat veterans of Iraq/Afghanistan in managing PTSD symptoms.

Using new software, hardware, simulations, physiologic monitoring, skills training and therapeutic methods based on Virtual Reality, scientists have experimented with exposing combat veterans to their traumatic experiences in a graded manner.

The advantage of this VR-based Graded Exposure Therapy (VR-GET) is that it helps patients who find it difficult to identify or talk about a traumatic event—which impacts the ability to learn the required skills to cope with a number of anxiety-inducing situations.

In this setting, the combat veteran relives the traumatic episode in a simulation that captures the essential elements of the event—all in a safe and controlled manner—while trying to recognize and manage any excessive autonomic arousal and cognitive reactivity.

Read a full article here.

Brussels Microsoft Innovation Center Hosts VR Event

Microsoft Innovation Center in Brussels hosted the first VR meetup on Friday 14 November. Event was sponsored by Impulse Brussels.

The goal of events like this is to create a true eco-system in the area of virtual reality. Leading companies such as Darkfield (Germany), Jaunt VR (USA), Video-Stich (France), VR Factory (Netherlands) and Belgian companies like VRMI, Virtuix and SoftKinetic have presented their innovative solutions in the field of virtual reality. More than 200 people attended the event. Three areas that were covered during the event included health, marketing and gaming. Virtual Reality Medical Institute (VRMI) was pleased to have the opportunity to chair the VR for healthcare breakout session.  Companies in the session included VR4child and SurgeVRy.

The good news for the virtual reality community is that these type of gatherings will be held regularly from now on. The next Virtual Reality meetup is scheduled on 21 January in 2015.

meetup

The event was widely covered in the local media. You can read the stories below.

Impulse réunit les stars de la réalité virtuelle – Solutions Magazine

Les startups bruxelloises s’emballent pour la réalité virtuelle – L’Echo

Bienvenue dans l’ère de la réalité virtuelle – Canal Z

 

Games for Health Europe Conference

International forerunners of applied gaming and healthcare once again landed in Utrecht on October 27 & 28 for Games for Health Europe Conference. The conference brought together researchers, medical professionals and game developers to exchange the latest innovations regarding applied games. 57 speakers from Europe, US and Japan came to share the latest innovations in applied game industry, as well as 20 Universities and academic hospitals were involved. The topics focused on business of cutting-edge games, game design, games for rehabilitation and disease management, health behavior change, biofeedback, cognitive health, nutrition and health education. Brenda Wiederhold from the Virtual Reality Medical Institute presented a design of a mobile app that could empower children to overcome fears. Kristina Augustinaite attended this conference as a press officer for the VRMI.

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