Anna Caltabiano

Thesis Title: Investigating the Feasibility of Virtual Reality Exposure Therapy for Subclinical Anxiety-Related Disorders.

Abstract: The main objective of the current project is to examine if virtual reality exposure therapy (VRET) is a feasible and effective intervention for a variety of subclinical anxiety-related disorders to address these symptoms at an early stage, prior to the escalation of symptomatology to diagnostic thresholds. To begin to investigate these objectives, I have chosen two case studies, subclinical contamination-featured Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and fear of needles. This selection was based on their similar underlying symptoms of anxiety, common treatment mechanism (i.e., exposure therapy), neglected populations, and significant prospects for impacting public health. Another aim of this project is to understand whether this form of therapy would be deemed acceptable by participants.

This project is unique in focusing on the application of VRET to subclinical anxiety-related disorders. To my knowledge, these are the first studies to examine subclinical adult populations with symptoms of OCD and fear of needles. Furthermore, they are the inaugural investigations into the efficacy of single-session VRET as an intervention for these groups. If successful, this approach could help revolutionize treatment for early-stage OCD and fear of needles, offering a cost-effective, efficient, and widely accessible solution for those on the brink of more severe manifestations of these specific conditions, and potentially even other comorbid anxiety-related disorders.