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Exposure to a Standardized Catastrophic Scenario in Virtual Reality or a Personalized Scenario in Imagination for Generalized Anxiety Disorder

1
Département de Psychologie, Université du Québec à Montréal, Montréal, QC H3C 3P8, Canada
2
Département de Psychoéducation et de Psychologie, Université du Québec en Outaouais, Gatineau, QC J8X 3X7, Canada
3
School of Psychology, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, ON K1N 6N5, Canada
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
J. Clin. Med. 2019, 8(3), 309; https://doi.org/10.3390/jcm8030309
Received: 19 January 2019 / Revised: 21 February 2019 / Accepted: 26 February 2019 / Published: 5 March 2019
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Abstract

The cognitive behavioral treatment of generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) often involves exposing patients to a catastrophic scenario depicting their most feared worry. The aim of this study was to examine whether a standardized scenario recreated in virtual reality (VR) would elicit anxiety and negative affect and how it compared to the traditional method of imagining a personalized catastrophic scenario. A sample of 28 participants were first exposed to a neutral non-catastrophic scenario and then to a personalized scenario in imagination or a standardized virtual scenario presented in a counterbalanced order. The participants completed questionnaires before and after each immersion. The results suggest that the standardized virtual scenario induced significant anxiety. No difference was found when comparing exposure to the standardized scenario in VR and exposure to the personalized scenario in imagination. These findings were specific to anxiety and not to the broader measure of negative affect. Individual differences in susceptibility to feel present in VR was a significant predictor of increase in anxiety and negative affect. Future research could use these scenarios to conduct a randomized control trial to test the efficacy and cost/benefits of using VR in the treatment of GAD. View Full-Text
Keywords: Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD); virtual reality; exposure in virtual reality; cognitive exposure; standardized scenario; personalized scenario Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD); virtual reality; exposure in virtual reality; cognitive exposure; standardized scenario; personalized scenario
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Guitard, T.; Bouchard, S.; Bélanger, C.; Berthiaume, M. Exposure to a Standardized Catastrophic Scenario in Virtual Reality or a Personalized Scenario in Imagination for Generalized Anxiety Disorder. J. Clin. Med. 2019, 8, 309.

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