Virtual reality in anxiety disorders: The past and the future

Alessandra Gorini, Giuseppe Riva

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


One of the most effective treatments of anxiety is exposure therapy: a person is exposed to specific feared situations or objects that trigger anxiety. This exposure process may be done through actual exposure, with visualization, by imagination or using virtual reality (VR), that provides users with computer simulated environments with and within which they can interact. VR is made possible by the capability of computers to synthesize a 3D graphical environment from numerical data. Furthermore, because input devices sense the subject's reactions and motions, the computer can modify the synthetic environment accordingly, creating the illusion of interacting with, and thus being immersed within the environment. Starting from 1995, different experimental studies have been conducted in order to investigate the effect of VR exposure in the treatment of subclinical fears and anxiety disorders. This review will discuss their outcome and provide guidelines for the use of VR exposure for the treatment of anxious patients.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)215-233
Number of pages19
JournalExpert Review of Neurotherapeutics
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2008


  • Anxiety disorders
  • Presence
  • Specific phobia
  • Virtual reality
  • Virtual reality exposure therapy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Neuroscience(all)


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