Out-of-body virtual scenarios 'help social anxiety'

People suffering from social anxiety could be helped to overcome their fears by viewing themselves taking part in virtual scenarios, research from the University of East Anglia suggests.
New imaging technology allowed six participants to rehearse their behaviour in a range of social settings. They were able to practise small talk and maintain eye contact, for example. Researchers said it could be used with cognitive behavioural therapy.

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Many [people with social anxiety] will either avoid public places and social gatherings altogether, or use safety behaviours to cope.”
Dr Lina GegaUniversity of East Anglia
UEA researchers created more than 100 different virtual scenarios, such as using public transport, buying a drink at a bar, socialising at a party, shopping, and talking to a stranger in an art gallery. They then asked six young men recovering from psychosis who also have debilitating social anxiety to take part in the video scenes. The participants were able to see their own life-size image projected onto a real-time video scene while experiencing social interaction.