BehaVR to develop VR for social anxiety disorder

Tennessee based virtual reality and digital therapeutics creator, BehaVR is partnering with Sunivon Pharmaceuticals Inc, an American subsidiary of Sumitomo Dainippon Pharma, to develop a product that uses virtual reality to assist in the management of social anxiety disorder.

According to the Social Anxiety Association, social anxiety disorder (SAD) is the ‘third largest mental health problem in the world today’. SAD is a chronic mental health condition in which social interactions can induce bouts of severe physical and mental duress. For people with SAD, seemingly commonplace social interactions can cause extreme anxiety, nausea, fear, and heightened self-consciousness, leading many individuals to skip out on experiences for fear of being judged, embarrassed, or offending others. Most common forms of its management include cognitive behavioural therapy and antidepressants which can help increase confidence and improve one’s ability to interact with others.

Using neuroscience and behavioural health research, BehaVR and Sumitomo Dainippon Pharma will develop a product that harnesses VR to target individuals’ sources of stress and anxiety whilst providing them active coping skills and behavioural reinforcement skills. Integrating the product with EMRs and telehealth platforms will give clinicians the ability to track patient progress. BehaVR expects the product will launch in the US in 2022.

“Decades of research have shown that VR is a powerful way to augment traditional cognitive behavioural therapies — including exposure, arousal reduction, active coping, and emotion regulation — which are often used to treat SAD,” said Dr. Peter Buecker, the Chief Medical Officer of BehaVR. “BehaVR’s technology platform expands on VR’s capability, using real-time biometrics and machine learning to personalize the experience. We believe this offers new possibilities in addressing SAD, and we are excited to explore these possibilities and ultimately bring to market a product that has the potential to change the lives of millions.”

Many people with social anxiety disorder often remain undiagnosed or anxious to seek out help. Virtual reality offers the promise of a discreet, user-friendly experience that is smartly tailored to one’s needs, that could be done from the comfort of one’s home. “Virtual reality has the potential to make good care and management for social anxiety disorder more accessible to people around the world,” said BehaVR CEO Aaron Gani.

BehaVR was founded by Aaron Gani, CEO, and Dr Bill Frist in 2016. The company’s aim is to use VR to empower individuals and lower barriers to health with personalised educational content, emotional regulation skills and stress resilience techniques.