Panic and agoraphobia in a virtual world

Keely Moore, Brenda K. Wiederhold, Mark D. Wiederhold, Giuseppe Riva

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Virtual reality (VR) offers a great new perspective on what it can offer an individual. These new approaches can give an individual the immersion and cognitive guidance that they need to help overcome his or her disorder. VR differs from the traditional displays in computer graphics as these various displays are integrated to give the user a sense of presence or immersion in the virtual world. To more effectively treat panic and agoraphobic patients using VR, it is necessary to determine the physiological responses of nonphobics when placed in the virtual panic and agoraphobia environments. This study exposed nonphobic participants to virtual panic and agoraphobia worlds with a program entitled "Virtual Medicine." Individuals without a diagnosis of panic and agoraphobia, as confirmed by intake and self-report questionnaires, were exposed to four different VR environments (elevator, supermarket, town square, and beach). During these VR experiences, physiology was measured by noninvasive sensors (peripheral skin temperature, heart rate, heart rate variability, respiration, and skin conductance). These measurements were compared to baseline physiology, which was recorded for five min prior to the VR exposure. These levels of physiological arousal will be useful in comparing against the phobic responses during virtual exposure. It will be useful to explore differences between immersion, physiological responses, and self-report responses in nonphobics versus phobics.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)197-202
Number of pages6
JournalCyberpsychology and Behavior
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2002

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication
  • Applied Psychology


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