Chronic illness is an aggravating event. Its symptoms and consequences may threaten our well-being and affect the deterioration of our life situation. The disease is associated with physical and emotional difficulties. Stress and depressed mood are common in diseases, but leaving the patient in such a state may cause further health issues. Medical support indispensable in the disease should be accompanied by psychological support, which today can be carried out with use of VR.
The essence of chronic disease
The essence of a chronic disease is its unremitting, persistent or worsening character. Full symptoms of chronic disease may appear in relapses or develop over the years. They are caused largely by behaviours and lifestyles unfavourable to health, the influence of environmental, genetic factors, and sometimes pathogens. In the case of some chronic diseases, stopping symptoms and maintaining a high quality of life is not possible without the patient’s involvement. However, stress, anxiety and depression are conducive to an inadaptable attitude towards the disease. Ill mental health constitutes an obstacle to successfully managing a chronic illness.
Stress in chronic illness
Stress in a chronic disease is complex. The disease disrupts balance and seamless functioning on multitude of levels. Stress may increase during hospitalization, during periods of relapse, it may be maintained by focusing on the negative aspects of our health situation. In addition to physical ailments, the patient may be accompanied by: persistent tension, a sense of threat and loneliness, guilt, uncertainty about their future, anxiety and sensitivity to body symptoms. It should be noted that the stress experienced may become a risk factor for the development of subsequent diseases and cause recurrence of symptoms. The emotional condition of the patient is correlated with the perception of their own situation. Improving the emotional condition facilitates adaptation to the disease, performs a motivating and energizing functions. Measures aimed at improving mood and reducing stress consequently have a positive effect on controlling the disease. People suffering from chronic diseases may benefit from the therapeutic impact in terms of resource empowerment, emotional regulation and changing misconceptions about their own health situation.
Virtual Reality for disease-related stress
Psychotherapy is conducive to minimizing the stress associated with the disease and improving the patient’s situation. The unavailability of specialist help is a real issue. Modern VR technology increases access to therapeutic programs. Interventions in Virtual Reality can effectively relieve stress, reduce tension and negative emotions associated with serious diseases. When looking for a response to stress in people who have had a heart attack, stroke, COVID-19, COPD, cancer or other serious illness, it is worth paying attention to the VR TierOne solution. The therapy provided by the VR TierOne device alleviates what is unfavourable – stress, anxiety, depression and at the same time strengthens important resources for health. It inspires hope, strength of life, diligence, optimism and trust. The aim of the therapeutic program conducted in Virtual Reality is also to make people aware of their situation and to indicate the possibility of personal control over the course of their disease through their own activity. This gives the necessary motivation for pro-health activities. Stress reduction, improvement in emotional and cognitive terms allows to implement treatment or rehabilitation recommendations. Improving mood, increasing motivation and enhancing the patient’s agency, prevents disability and a decrease in life satisfaction due to the experienced disease.
In the context of coping with stress in illness, we must mention strategies involving relaxation. Virtual Reality can support the process of relaxation and calming down. For this purpose we created the mobile VR TierOne GO relaxation headset. The stress of the disease associated with staying in the hospital space can be successfully alleviated with the use of VR TierOne GO relaxation headset. Calming 360° VR films depicting natural landscapes, complemented by a relaxing audio track in the form of sounds of nature, properly prepared music and the therapist’s voice leading relaxation, give a chance to regain balance in the stress of the disease. Virtual interventions offer an efficient, effective and pleasant way of mental support. This encourages the use of VR to reduce stress and other negative emotions experienced by people with health problems.