'Virtual Iraq' Helps Vets Face Stress

Treatment drags soldiers back to moments of crisis
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted May 18, 2008 5:14 AM CDT

Therapists are plunging US war veterans back into the horrors of battle—as therapy. A virtual reality treatment is helping them cope with post-traumatic stress disorder by returning them to scarring events until their shock value wanes. "When the ground starts vibrating and you smell smoke and hear the AK-47 firing, it becomes very real," said one veteran. "When it was over, I’d go home and cry.”

The "Virtual Vietnam" experiment pioneered the treatment in the  '90s, dragging veterans back to the jungle to unlock buried memories. Virtual Iraq is still in its early stages, but has already helped some vets back to normal lives. “You never really get rid of PTSD, but you learn to live with it," said the veteran. "Most of the intrusive thoughts have gone away." (More virtual reality stories.)

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