Overcoming Acrophobia ; Online Support Groups: A Valuable Supplement to Conventional MentalHealthcare

Campbell, Nick, School of Engineering and Applied Science, University of Virginia
Heo, Seongkook, EN-Comp Science Dept, University of Virginia
Bloomfield, Aaron, University of Virginia
Norton, Peter, EN-Engineering and Society, University of Virginia
Behl, Madhur, EN-Comp Science Dept, University of Virginia

Research has found that about five percent of individuals are acrophobic. With such a large population suffering, how can this phobia best be alleviated? Prior research suggests that exposure therapy is effective in helping those with acrophobia. A variety of sources contribute to the phobia, such as a traumatic experience, witnessing parental figures express fear towards heights, or natural conditioning to fear falling. Regardless, a VR experience that exposes acrophobes to virtual heights in a safe environment may help those suffering from the phobia. By creating a virtual environment where individuals can face their fears safely without consequence, users can gain control over their fears. This project was developed in Unity and C#. My faculty technical advisors are Madhur Behl, Aaron Bloomfield, and Seongkook Heo.
Since 2000, how has online mental-illness support supplemented or displaced in-person care? While licensed mental healthcare professionals have cautioned that online mental healthcare is no substitute for professional care, many depressed persons report that they find it indispensable as a supplement to professional care; to some depressed persons, it is an effective alternative to care they cannot afford or otherwise access.

BS (Bachelor of Science)
VR, Depression, Exposure Therapy, Acrophobia, Online Support Communities

School of Engineering and Applied Science
Bachelor of Science in Computer Science
Technical Advisor: Seongkook Heo, Madhur Behl
STS Advisor: Peter Norton
Technical Team Members: Nicholas Campbell, Jack Vance

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