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New virtual reality treatment brings veterans with PTSD back to where it all began

Posted at 11:35 AM, Jan 30, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-30 12:35:46-05

Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, is a mental health condition that can develop after a person witnesses or experiences a traumatic event.

It can be triggered by a life-threatening event like a car accident, a sexual assault, a natural disaster - or combat.

In Texas, a new virtual reality treatment is being used to help veterans suffering from PTSD.

For some, maybe they were on a crowded Iraqi street, or maybe, in a rural afghan village, but for as many as 30 percent of veterans, something happened

They are hiding from to this day.

The Strongmind system is designed to take them back there.

"We're trying to help patients to confront and reprocess difficult emotional memories, but in a safe place,” Dr. Skip Rizzo from USC Institute for Creative Technologies said.

The system Dr. Skip Rizzo has developed for 15 years is being introduced to clinicians at the North Texas VA this week for them to use with their post-traumatic stress patients.

Traditionally, patients are asked to imagine the scenario they're troubled by.

"And then we can of course, blow stuff up…all of a sudden things start to come back. They've been trying to avoid thinking or talking to anybody about it. And once you break that seal, you start to hear more and more and more,” Rizzo said.

"it goes beyond what you see and what you hear. Down to what you were holding that day, and even what you were feeling that day," Jason Allen from Dallas said.

Charitable organization Soldierstrong has donated Strongmind to 13 Veteran Affairs Hospitals including three in Texas.

And that real-world use is expected to help develop the system further.

“And I think we can move the needle forward not just for veterans but the whole civilian sector and improve the lives of people who are confronted by high stress," Rizzo said.

The Department of Veterans Affairs says up to 20 percent of vets who served in Iraq or Afghanistan have PTSD in any given year.

The VA says about 30 percent of Vietnam vets have had PTSD in their lifetime.