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Anxiety disorders are the most prevalent mental disorders affecting up to 33.7 percent of the population at least once during their lifetime. The treatment of anxiety disorders is linked to immense healthcare costs and a shortage of available healthcare personnel around the world. One evidence based successful anxiety treatment marks traditional exposure therapy either used separated or in combination with medication. However, many affected people are reluctant to expose themselves to the real anxiety trigger or phobic stimulus. Moreover, this kind of therapy requires a reality exposure which is often expensive and not controllable resulting in refusing such therapy on the side of those affected. Another major challenge concerning the high demand of psychotherapy for anxiety disorders lays in the availability of healthcare professionals.Often, time and space hinders an equal treatment for all patients. It is a major challenge in mental healthcare to ensure support for all patients independent of regional infrastructures and environmental factors of the place of residency. Virtual reality holds a strong potential for the future of controlled and customisable exposure therapy and remote psychotherapy in anxiety treatment, bridging the gap of time and space between the therapist and the patient.
Imagine, virtual reality is used to create a personal, modifiable exposure scenario, fully immersive yet without the need of exposure to real-life situations. That means, exposure therapy becomes available for anxiety patients at any stage of their treatment due to the controllability of treatment intensity and the eliminated need of exposure to the real trigger or phobic stimulus. As a consequence of that, concerned people will show reduced hesitance and increased willingness to engage in exposure therapy to cure their anxiety disorders. Moreover, the usage of virtual reality will eventually reduce the medical costs related to anxiety treatment and offer a therapy that can be conducted time and place independent. Another application area for VR in psychotherapy is the creation of virtual therapy sessions, providing the opportunity to let the therapist and the patient meet in a simulated virtual environment without the need of being physically in the same location. VRAnx-C is a project with the aim of developing virtual reality applications that can revolutionise anxiety treatment by making it more acceptable, customisable, cost efficient and ultimately, equally available to those suffering from this life constraining disorder.