Research: Single-Session Gamified Virtual Reality Exposure Therapy For Spider Phobia vs. Traditional Exposure Therapy
Mentor: Moaz Hamza
Arachnophobia is an excessive fear of spiders that affects 5% of the population. This can affect everyday life as many live in constant fear trying to avoid those certain scenarios, and while present in them, they experience extreme phobic symptoms. The purpose of this research is to determine whether virtual reality exposure therapy is a viable treatment option. Using Unity, C#, and VRChat, an environment was created where participants within the virtual environment group complete gamified tasks that revolve around realism-increasing interactions with spiders. The virtual reality headsets provided allow the users to interact with the virtually created setting. After three sessions of thirty minutes, the Fear of Spiders Questionnaire was administered. After participants filled out the questionnaire, the results were analyzed to see if virtual reality is an effective treatment for arachnophobia. Results demonstrated an improvement in FSQ scores among participants within the virtual reality group. The FSQ uses a point-based system where intense phobic symptoms are logged with high scores. These scores range from zero, indicating an absence of fear, and 125 a high level of fear. Nearly half the participants demonstrated a decrease in fear. One participant, in particular, obtained a score of 97 pre-treatment and 32 after. The results of this experiment determined that VRET demonstrated a positive effect on phobic symptoms.