Can Virtual Reality Help With Eating Disorder Recovery?

In our previous blog, we discussed the complexity of eating disorders, their relationship to trauma, and the challenge of creating a successful, sustainable eating disorder recovery lifestyle. We noted that being immersed in a world which thrives on messaging about food, body, and those relationships, is extremely challenging.

Recently, the Wall Street Journal reported on a new trend in eating disorder treatment which is finding great success. Virtual reality offers those in recovery from eating disorder an opportunity to be immersed in stressful, triggering situations, with the safety and support of a clinical environment. Rather than complete treatment and therapy, then be pushed out of the nest into the real world, patients have the opportunity to test run everything they have learned. As well, they can work through their anxieties, traumas, and triggers, with the support of a therapist. Fast Company reports on a review which examined over 160 studies on the use of virtual reality for eating disorder treatment. Researchers found that virtual reality is a “promising” tool for treating eating disorders.

Why Clinical Immersion Works

One of the main reasons people relapse, in any number of mental health issues, is the fact that they are simply ill-equipped to handle all of life’s challenges. We say in recovery that we learn to “live life on life’s terms” by building resiliency and tools to cope with all of the ups as well as all of the downs. All of the learning in the world can take place within a treatment center or a therapist’s walls. However, the world is outside of those walls and real action is required in real time. Though treatment is completely transformational and educational, it simply is not the same as being immersed in a real world situation that looks and feels like reality. Once in reality, the fight or flight response kicks in, which leads most often to freezing, forgetting everything one has learned, then taking flight from the situation by returning to old behaviors.

Virtual reality helps by creating as realistic a scenario as possible which feels as real as possible and illicit all of the very real physiological as well as psychological responses. Experiencing their responses in real time, patients have the chance to work through them and discuss with their therapists. By the time their graduation from treatment takes place and they enter the “real world” outside, they have the confidence they need to face all of life’s challenges without relapse.

Learning to be is part of the process of trauma recovery. Stop the cycle of merry-go-round treatment and find the solution you’re looking for in trauma treatment. Through effective residential treatment, Khiron House helps you find the path you need toward health and wellness in recovery. For information, call us today. UK: 020 3811 2575 (24 hours). USA: (866) 801 6184 (24 hours).