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Reading of the Week: Technology & Psychiatry – Can Virtual Reality Help with Pain? Or Social Anxiety?

From the Editor

VR. e-therapies.

New technology is changing the way we think about the delivery of psychiatric services. But new isn’t necessarily better. Can care really be transformed? What does the literature say?

U.S. President Barack Obama tries virtual reality glasses as he and German Chancellor Angela Merkel (R) tour Hanover Messe Trade Fair in Hanover, Germany April 25, 2016. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

VR: more than just a presidential photo op?

In a two-part Reading of the Week series, we look at technology and psychiatry.

This week, Virtual Reality.

Next week, e-therapies.

This week, we consider a new paper that looks at virtual reality to treat pain in hospitalized patients. The authors find that people utilizing VR have less pain as compared to controls. This finding leads us to another recent paper on VR; in this second study, patients with social anxiety are treated with a VR intervention.

DG

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Reading of the Week: Can Crowdsourcing Treat Depression?

Social networks aspire to connect people, which is a noble but naive goal. When we uncritically accept connection as a good thing, we overlook difficult, important questions: Are some forms of virtual communication more nourishing than others? Might some in fact be harmful? Is it possible that Facebook, for instance, leaves some people feeling more lonely? No one knows for sure. We tend to build things first and worry about the effects they have on us later.

Robert Morris is taking the opposite approach. Starting with the desired effect of helping people deal with depression, he developed Panoply, a crowdsourced website for improving mental health.

So begins this week’s Reading.

This is not your typical selection. Though the disease discussed is depression, the treatment involves social networks, not sertraline. The article is well written, but it doesn’t appear in the pages of World Psychiatry but Wired. The article details therapy, but with a focus on apps, not Adler. CBT is important, but crowdsourcing is talked about more than cognitive distortions.

Welcome to psychiatry in the 21st century.

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