Virtual reality in the treatment of eating disorders

Giuseppe Riva, Clelia Malighetti, Silvia Serino

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Over the last 25 years, virtual reality (VR) has offered innovative solutions for targeting different key symptoms of eating disorders: from craving to negative emotions, from attentional biases to body dissatisfaction. The present narrative review assesses the existing literature in these areas trying to identify their different levels of clinical evidence. Specifically, the review presents four clinical approaches based upon VR and their implications in the treatment of eating disorders: VR cue exposure, VR reference frame shifting, VR for correcting body distortions and attentional biases. In general, existing findings demonstrate the clinical value of VR. On one side, the present review suggests that two VR-based techniques—VR exposure and reference frame shifting—have a significant research support and provide a possible advantage over traditional cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) for bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder. On the other side, two emerging VR applications—multisensory body illusions and the use of VR for the modification of attentional biases—even if supported by preliminary data still need further research.

Original languageEnglish
JournalClinical Psychology and Psychotherapy
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2021


  • attentional biases
  • eating disorders
  • full body illusions
  • virtual reality
  • VR cue exposure
  • VR reference frame shifting

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology


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