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Mil Med. 2012 Jun;177(6):635-42.

Development and testing of virtual reality exposure therapy for post-traumatic stress disorder in active duty service members who served in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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  • 1Naval Medical Center San Diego, 34800 Bob Wilson Drive, San Diego, CA 92134, USA.


This study was an open-label, single-group, treatment-development project aimed at developing and testing a method for applying virtual reality exposure therapy (VRET) to active duty service members diagnosed with combat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Forty-two service members with PTSD were enrolled, and 20 participants completed treatment. The PTSD Checklist-Military version, Patient Health Questionnaire-9 for depression, and the Beck Anxiety Inventory were used as outcome measures. Of those who completed post-treatment assessment, 75% had experienced at least a 50% reduction in PTSD symptoms and no longer met DSM-IV criteria for PTSD at post treatment. Average PSTD scores decreased by 50.4%, depression scores by 46.6%, and anxiety scores by 36%. Intention-to-treat analyses showed that statistically significant improvements in PTSD, depression, and anxiety occurred over the course of treatment and were maintained at follow up. There were no adverse events associated with VRET treatment. This study provides preliminary support for the use of VRET in combat-related PTSD. Further study will be needed to determine the wider utility of the method and to determine if it offers advantages over other established PTSD treatment modalities.

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