VR Depersonalization & Derealization?

Dangers of VR?

Better VR experiences are being created, and as a company focused on the health of gamers, we’d like to look at new research that focuses on depersonalization and derealization tied to VR. This will be done with the help of the article, “Virtual reality can include mild and transient symptoms of depersonalization and derealization, study finds” by Eric W. Dolan of PsyPost. According to Dolan, this new research has been posted in the journal, Computers in Human Behavior.

Summarizing some of the basis of the research, Dolan stated, “There have been some preliminary indications that the use of VR technology can induce feelings of alienation towards one’s own self and a feeling of detachment from reality — phenomena known as depersonalization and derealization, respectively. To provide a clearer understanding of VR’s true effects, the authors of the new study conducted a longitudinal randomized control trial.”


The Study

Interestingly, study author, Niclas Braun, the head of the Virtual Reality Therapy and Medical Technology research group at the University of Bonn, mentioned that forum posts of VR gamers sharing dissociative symptoms and alienation experiences helped inspire the study.

The article states that there were 80 participants free of psychiatric or neurological disorders in the study, and they were asked to play Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim using either a VR headset or while utilizing a PC screen. Dolan shares that the German state version of the Cambridge Depersonalization Scale was completed just before gaming, just after, one day after, and one week after. Finally, he mentioned that assessments were done just after gaming regarding emotional responsiveness, VR-induced motion sickness, and perceptional realness.



The article shares that it was found that depersonalization and derealization tended to be higher right after gaming for both groups. This was more pronounced amongst those who wore the headset. Perceptual realness of Skyrim was also rated a good deal higher in the VR participant group.

Discussing the results, Braun had the following quotes in the article:

What our study shows is that half an hour of VR use can induce mild symptoms of depersonalization and derealization, which, however, do not reach clinically significant levels and are only evident directly after VR use.”

Whether long-term depersonalization and derealization symptoms can also occur, and to what extent long-term VR use leads to an intensification or attenuation of depersonalization and derealization symptoms, is still unclear and requires further investigation.”

Our study indeed leaves many questions unanswered” and “For example, we have only examined one VR game so far, and it is therefore unclear to what extent our found effects are transferable to other VR games or VR applications. Also, we have so far only studied healthy individuals, but not different, potential risk groups (e.g., individuals who have an increased risk of psychosis, or individuals who already suffer from an anxiety disorder or post-traumatic stress disorder).”


Final Thoughts

In short, it seems that more research must be done to explore the topic more thoroughly. There may be mild symptoms directly after VR use, but we’re curious for more research on possible long-term effects, especially as VR technology continues to advance. While Skyrim is a good start, as Braun said, only 1 game has been studied.








The Study:



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