Augmented Reality and Psychology

“While it’s normal to be nervous about speaking in public, sometimes this anxiety turns into full-blown panic. If that’s the case every time you give a speech, you have a whole other set of problems that you probably need a therapist for. But what if there’s an app for that?” – Sarah Welsh, “Anxiety? There’s an App for That.

Psychology has used augmented reality as a benefit to mental health research in a number of ways, providing an immersive environment for patients who might not otherwise be able to experience and thus potentially overcome certain phobias at the drop of a hat, for instance. In exposure therapy, the phobic person puts him or herself in the phobic environment, but clinically phobic patients have been known to drop out of therapy when they have to confront their worst fears. While virtual reality has been used for this purpose for years, researchers are experimenting with augmented reality for this end, which might also provide a way for patients to be forced to confront their fears in real time. But is this just a way for patients to engage a fantasy of their phobia and not the phobia itself?