Imagine learning to overcome your greatest fears and anxieties in a virtual world before facing them in real life. Virtual reality (VR) can help diagnose and treat people with mental health disorders and phobias by providing a realistic experience without the risks or costs associated with exposure therapy, says Irish cyber psychologist Dr Gráinne Kirwan.
Short answer: No, but online worlds can really stress you out.
Virtual environments almost certainly induce genuine anxiety, says Grainne Kirwan, a psychologist who specializes in cybercrime at the Dún Laoghaire Institute of Art, Design, and Technology in Ireland. For example, your physiological and emotional responses to entering a dark alley in a video game may be comparable to those you’d have in a similar real-life situation. “But would it be to the extent of initiating post-traumatic stress disorder? That hasn’t been demonstrated,” Kirwan says.