Virtual reality posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) exposure therapy results with active duty OIF/OEF service members

Albert Rizzo*, Greg Reger, Karen Perlman, Barbara Rothbaum, Joann Difede, Rob McLay, Ken Graap, Greg Gahm, Scott Johnston, Rob Deal, Jarrell Pair, Thomas Parsons, Mike Roy, Russell Shilling, Paul M. Sharkey

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is reported to be caused by exposure to traumatic events including (but not limited to) military combat, violent personal assault, being kidnapped or taken hostage and terrorist attacks. Initial data suggest that at least 1 out of 6 Iraq War veterans are exhibiting symptoms of depression, anxiety and PTSD. Virtual reality (VR) delivered exposure therapy for PTSD has been used with reports of positive outcomes. The aim of the current paper, is to present the rationale and brief description of a Virtual Iraq/Afghanistan PTSD VR therapy application and present initial findings from its use with PTSD patients. Thus far, Virtual Iraq/Afghanistan consists of a series of customizable virtual scenarios designed to represent relevant Middle Eastern VR contexts for exposure therapy, including a city and desert road convoy environment. User-centered design feedback, needed to iteratively evolve the system, was gathered from returning Iraq War veterans in the USA and from a system deployed in Iraq and tested by an Army Combat Stress Control Team. Results from an open clinical trial at San Diego Naval Medical Center of the first 20 treatment completers indicate that 16 no longer met PTSD screening criteria at post-treatment, with only one not maintaining treatment gains at 3 month follow-up.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)301-308
Number of pages8
JournalInternational Journal on Disability and Human Development
Issue number4
StatePublished - Nov 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Exposure therapy
  • Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Virtual Afghanistan
  • Virtual Iraq


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