Agoraphobia is an anxiety disorder that can become detrimental to a person’s way of life. Agoraphobia is where people become fearful in certain situations that they feel as though they would not be able to leave or get help; this typically coincides with panic disorder. (“Agoraphobia”). In Latin America 2.5% of the population will experience agoraphobia (Garcia-Batista et al., 2020). According to Garcia-Batista et al., (2020), this disorder effects both men and women but the researchers did not include children in their demographics. Certain symptoms present with the disorder including sweating, feeling faint, dizziness, heart pounding, and feeling as though the person can not breathe (Batista et al., 2020). The cause or root of the disorder is anxiety (Batista et al., 2020). Typical treatments include exposure therapy (Batista et al., 2020). Agoraphobia can be a debilitating disorder leaving its victims isolated and in fear.
The researchers are: Zoilo Emilio Garcia-Batista, Kiero Guerra-Pena, Ivan Alsina-Jurnet, Antonia Cano-Vindel, Solmary Xiomara Herrera Martinez, Daniel Jimenez-Payano, Luciana Sofia Moretti, and Leonardo Adrian Medrano. The research took place in 2019 in the Dominican Republic. (Batista et al., 2020). The researchers are trying to discover if using virtual reality with relevant cultural input would be clinically helpful in treating agoraphobia. The researchers were particularly interested in studying this effect in the Dominican Republic because the Dominican Republic has the same standard of mental health care compared to other more developed countries.
The article does not say specifically what recruitment methods were used to find participants, only that they used multiple sampling methods to find people suffering from agoraphobia (Batista et al., 2020). Ages consisted of 18-71 years old of participants, both genders were included. The inclusion criteria were to find people who scored high expressing signs of agoraphobia. There was no diagnosis given to the participants.
The researchers administered two questionnaires. First, the Agoraphobic Cognitions Questionnaire (ACQ) and then the Body Sensations Questionnaire (BSQ). The ACQ presents different thoughts about the effects of anxiety; there are 14 items that the participants scored on a scale from one (anxiety absent) to five (severe). (Batista et al., 2020). The BSQ measures how much fear the participants feel in correlation to the physical expression of anxiety (Batista et al, 2020). The participants who scored high on both assessments were given an interview to better help the researchers understand the Dominica Republican’s situations that agoraphobia was occurring in. All the data was used to help design five different virtual reality situations specific to the researchers selected demographic.
The purpose of the research was to develop culturally relevant virtual reality situations to help patients work though their agoraphobia. The objective of including culturally relevant landmarks, vegetation, and places were to increase the likelihood of the patient being able to transition from the virtual reality sessions and into the real world successfully using strategies to overcome their anxiety (Batista et al., 2020). Batisita et al., (2020) found that by including cultural pieces in the virtual reality sessions patients were better able to overcome their anxiety in the real world due to the similarities in the two situations.
I think the researchers correctly identified participants with agoraphobia through their different but targeted questionnaires. The procedure of including culturally relevant items in the virtual reality was what made this good research. To make this research better, I feel the researcher should follow up with the participants and see if the virtual reality sessions had ongoing success in helping with the disorder. The research findings could impact society by offering up an inexpensive tool for those countries who are still developing their mental health care. This research has impacted me as I suffer from anxiety and panic disorder personally. Instead of medications and alternative methods of overcoming anxiety, fear, and agoraphobia, it is amazing to consider the usage of technology to incorporate real life simulations to conquer this psychological entrapment.
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