Virtual Reality in Anger Management

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Virtual Reality in anger management

Summary: Virtual reality incorporated into anger exposure training can be effective in anger management.

Virtual reality is a productive tool that may help control anger in confrontational individuals. 

Abstract: Appropriate anger management may be essential for social well-being because lacking control over anger leads to emotional and social problems. 

Virtual reality (VR) may potentially be effectively utilized in anger management, aiming to verify the applicability of the VR-based anger control training program.

Based on the Aggression Questionnaire scores, scientists analyzed the data from 60 young male participants divided into 2 groups, the high-aggression group and the low-aggression one. 

The program consisted of the ‘‘Anger Exposure Training’’ to induce and facilitate anger and the ‘‘Mindfulness  Training’’ to provide the meditation experience for controlling anger. 

Scientists also analyzed the anger-regulation and comfort-enhancement rates in correlation with psychological variables. 

The obtained results indicated that the VR environments could provide effective means of training for managing anger. 

Therefore, further research on the effectiveness of the VR-based anger control training program is worth conducting on individuals who express excessive aggression.

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VR Against Anger?

With the progression of technology, professionals can successfully use virtual reality to treat anger.

Based on initial evidence of an immersive VR-based anger control training program developed by a team of scientists, using VR for real-life situations proves utterly beneficial. 

Some individuals respond to threats and frustration in a way that causes them anger.

If this anger appears frequently and is not adequately controlled, such a situation could lead to aggression and avoidance, or some people often designate it. Moreover, uncontrolled anger can shapeshift to risky behaviors and violence.

As it becomes a major social problem, scientific society has put a massive effort into developing training programs on controlling anger.

The tremendous progress of digital technology in the last few years offers new techniques supporting managing anger.

So far, with virtual reality (VR) training, trainees can learn where their comfort zone is and get real-time feedback on their interaction with virtual humans.

Moving forward, Hye-Jeong Jo and the team of scientists predicted that VR could be effectively utilized for anger management.

The outcome of the study that was recently published shows that VR-endorsed surroundings can yield effective instruments for managing anger.

The study’s primary goal was to examine the relevance of VR-backed training programs for managing anger issues, including virtual environments to provoke anger and facilitate anger control.

“We have developed”, as they say in the study, “a VR-based comprehensive training program for anger control”.

The program comes with two trainings – ‘‘Anger Exposure Training’, and ‘‘Mindfulness Training’’.

Virtual environments provoke anger, and there is a visual avatar guiding the participant to facilitate anger control, and Mindfulness training provides an opportunity to mediate anger.

Scientists selected 62 volunteers to participate in this study and divided them into 2 study groups based on their level of aggression.

Participants with heightened aggression were paced in the first group, while those with low levels of aggression comprised the second one.  

In this study, the implementation of VR technology helped participants enter a VR-endorsed environment that mirrored an everyday life situation.

In anger exposure training, in a virtual library, participants have faced 2 conflict situations and made two attempts at the same experience, expressing anger as it was and the second attempt to resolve the conflict with better communication.

In another two situations, mindfulness training gave VR participants a guide to meditation.

In the first case, participants learned how to relax while watching a video at home.

In the second one, participants learned how to relieve and breathe deeply by watching a calm night scenery while on the subway.

During the training, participants followed the audio guide, performed tasks from the first person point of view, and interacted with executable objects and avatars.

For the purpose of this study, the team has used Oculus Rift head-mounted display with a tracker and Leap Motion Controller – a new device suitable for hand gesture-controlled user interfaces.

In anger exposure training, anger scores were significantly lower than those after angry expression with VR-guided expression management.

Such a positive effect of reduced level of anger was achieved in those with increased aggression and those with a relatively low level of aggression.

After virtual meditation guidance, the comfort scores were significantly higher than the baseline in both virtual situations and groups involved in mindfulness training.

Regarding comfort enhancement, there were no differences between the involved groups.  

People who find themselves unable to control their anger can benefit from anger management methods that can be implemented on a daily basis.

Incorporating VR in such training programs is beneficial for creating a virtual environment that can induce anger in individuals.

VR could also help individuals regulate their expression of anger and help them meditate.

Results suggest that anger exposure training can be used in individuals with elevated levels of aggression.

“An essential technique used in this training was to expose the trainee to situations that caused anger.

In fact, the situations were likely to stimulate anger in anyone, regardless of the individual’s usual level of aggression”, says the study’s author.

Mindfulness training, including VR techniques, can be practical whether performed in a crowded or comfortable environment, like practicing at home.

“Such training can temper irritability in individuals with high aggression,” added the author.

Meditation based on VR can facilitate mindfulness skills more than conventional methods.

Another interesting finding regarding safety is that this program comes with a minimum risk of cybersickness; therefore, it could be safely applied.

So far, we have available proof of the benefit of VR in different fields. A virtual environment can train users to perform real-world tasks and procedures in a comfortable environment.

Using VR for re-enacting real-life situations has proven incredibly convenient and practical for the training of first responders, including firefighters, police officers, and ER professionals.

Simulation of dangerous situations is now available for military training, too. Depending on the field where implemented, VR training can be, at the same time, less expensive.

VR programs are also created for safe use in medicine in cases of treating visual impairments or practicing surgical techniques.

Patients with schizophrenia and those with social anxiety disorder can benefit from VR applications and reality programs. VR can also support individuals in overcoming their fear of heights.

Researchers that explore the traits and benefits of using VR for treating mental issues should also include objective measurements for using wearable devices; plus, it would be beneficial to broaden the scope of using VR for other target groups in order to identify possible positive effects on different individuals struggling with anger expression.

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