In one of my previous posts, I discussed the serious issue of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and the detrimental effects it has on American troops who had served in Iraq. Now, thanks to technology and to research lead by Dr. Albert “Skip” Rizzo (pictured to the left) of the University of Southern California, a new method of treatment may make it possible for soldiers, who were exposed to traumatic episodes, to overcome the terrible affections of this dreadful disease. This advanced form of “exposure therapy” involves the use of virtual reality, in a safe and controlled setting, to simulate intense, harsh, lifelike events that a soldier must repeatedly be exposed to in order to confront and ultimately gain control over the overwhelming fears and anguish associated with any particular traumatic event. Even though the trials on this distinct therapy are in its infancy, the results look promising so, naturally, with all the excitement surrounding this brand new form of treatment, I decided, once more, to seek out other reputable blogs to engage in the dialogue. My first comment can be found here at Mind Hacks, an excellent, informative, and popular blog dedicated to the fields of Psychology and Neuroscience. My second post can be found here at A Soldier’s Mind, a passionate blog committed to the men and women in the armed forces serving in Iraq. Both comments can also be seen below:
What an exceptional idea to treat PTSD. However, I am bit surprised it had not been thought of sooner, considering that we have had much of the technology for years and, as you already mentioned, it is unequivocally safer than exposure to any form, including the lowest level, of combat conditions. One of the reasons I believe that this treatment may be more beneficial than traditional imaginative therapy to a soldier suffering from PTSD, is due to the extensive amount of detail involved in creating this “Virtual Iraq.” In case your readers didn’t know, the realism factor of this program is truly astounding. It includes a fully rendered three-dimensional environment with impressive graphics (pictured below) and sound; powerful subwoofers are placed under the soldier’s chair to create movements and vibrations (pictured to the right); and a system allows for odors to be dispersed which include: gunpowder, cordite, burning rubber, burning smoke, diesel fuel, Iraqi spices, barbecued lamb and body odor. As you can probably tell, I am very excited about the possibilities of this new treatment. Hopefully this technology can help alleviate the distress of our affected soldiers.
Thank you for shedding light on what is becoming Iraq’s silent wound: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. This is a very serious issue and needs to be better understood because unfortunately, more and more American troops are coming home from Iraq having experienced severely traumatic events and are at risk for developing PTSD. As someone who has witnessed, first hand, what PTSD can do to an individual, I am greatly pleased to see a push towards treating this terrible illness. The virtual reality concept is fascinating because the idea is to expose patients to scenarios that trigger their PTSD and work through them with the goal of lessoning the negative side effects. After reading your post on the workings of this program, and of some the preliminary findings, I must say that I am very hopeful about the tremendous possibilities that this new form of exposure therapy may have on soldiers suffering from PTSD.