The effectiveness of self-guided virtual-reality exposure therapy for public-speaking anxiety

Premkumar, P., Heym, N. ORCID: 0000-0003-2414-8854, Brown, D.J. ORCID: 0000-0002-1677-7485, Battersby, S., Sumich, A. ORCID: 0000-0003-4333-8442, Huntington, B., Daly, R. and Zysk, E., 2021. The effectiveness of self-guided virtual-reality exposure therapy for public-speaking anxiety. Frontiers in Psychiatry, 12: 694610. ISSN 1664-0640

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Objectives: Self-guided virtual-reality exposure therapy (VRET) is a psychological intervention that enables a person to increase their own exposure to perceived threat. Public-speaking anxiety (PSA) is an anxiety-provoking social situation that is characterized by fear of negative evaluation from an audience. This pilot study aimed to determine whether self-guided VRET (1) increases exposure to PSA-specific virtual social threats, and (2) reduces anxiety, arousal, heartrate and PSA over repeated exposure.

Methods: Thirty-two University students (27 completers) with high self-reported public-speaking anxiety attended 2 weekly self-guided VRET sessions. Each session involved the participant delivering a 20-min speech in a virtual classroom. Participants were able to increase their exposure to virtual social threat through the audience size, audience reaction, number of speech prompts, and their own salience in the virtual classroom at 4-min intervals. Participants' heartrates and self-reported anxiety and arousal were monitored during these intervals. Participants completed psychometric assessments after each session and 1 month later.

Results: Participants increased their exposure to virtual social threat during each VRET session, which coincided with a reduction in heartrate and self-reported anxiety and arousal. Improvement in PSA occurred post-treatment and 1 month later. The in-session improvement in anxiety correlated with reductions in fear of negative evaluation post-treatment and 1 month later.

Conclusions: Increased self-exposure to virtual social threat from self-guided VRET relieves anxiety and shows immediate reductions in subjective and physiological arousal during application, but also yields sustained improvement in PSA.

Item Type: Journal article
Publication Title: Frontiers in Psychiatry
Creators: Premkumar, P., Heym, N., Brown, D.J., Battersby, S., Sumich, A., Huntington, B., Daly, R. and Zysk, E.
Publisher: Frontiers Media SA
Date: 19 August 2021
Volume: 12
ISSN: 1664-0640
Rights: © 2021 Premkumar, Heym, Brown, Battersby, Sumich, Huntington, Daly and Zysk. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.
Divisions: Schools > School of Science and Technology
Schools > School of Social Sciences
Record created by: Laura Ward
Date Added: 14 Jan 2022 11:50
Last Modified: 14 Jan 2022 11:50

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