As result of our work in this area we now a have developed a standalone Multi-Modal Memory Restructuring (3MR) application that can be download for free.
Relevant work done in this context
(Taken from Research assignment )
A ‘Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder’ is considered one of the twelve different types of anxiety disorders. Hence, before giving the definition of a PTSD, it is useful to look at the characteristics of an ‘anxiety disorder’ first.
According to DSM-IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders IV, 1995) a generalized anxiety disorder is characterized by:
• anxiety occurring persistently
• excessive and hard to control worry
• feelings of uneasiness.
Anxiety and feelings of uneasiness are normal human reactions when someone is in a stressful situation. Sometimes anxiety even results in better performance (Raudis & Yustitskis, 2008), as seen in the Yerkes-Dodson law graph in figure 1. However, when this feeling becomes excessive and influences a person’s lifestyle, it is, like most other mental disturbances, considered a disorder. A very noticeable change in one’s lifestyle is the avoidance of certain activities, people and places (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders IV, 1995).
This definition covers anxiety disorders in general. DSM-IV provides the following description for a PTSD:
“Posttraumatic Stress disorder is characterized by the re-experiencing of an extremely traumatic event accompanied by symptoms of increased arousal and by avoidance of stimuli associated with the trauma.” (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders IV, 1995)
This definition already specifies certain symptoms which make a PTSD different compared to other (anxiety) disorders. Symptoms of a PTSD can be distinguished by three different symptom clusters (Paul M. G. Emmelkamp, et al., 1995). Each cluster is related to one of the following:
These symptoms occur after the person has been exposed to a specific kind of stressor. However, not everyone will experience these symptoms immediately after the event. In many cases the symptoms occur days or even months after the stressor. What are the criteria for these symptoms and what is considered a traumatic event? Also, in which ways does the person re-experience these events over and over again?
(Taken from Research assignment )
The traumatic event or ‘stressor’ has to be of an extreme nature (Paul M. G. Emmelkamp, et al., 1995). Of course this statement is somewhat subjective, as one person is able to handle a specific stressor while others can not. Also, not everybody who experiences a traumatic event will react the same way (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders IV, 1995; Paul M. G. Emmelkamp, et al., 1995). The stressor is usually of human design (kidnapping, terrorist attack, personal assault, etc.), but also exposure to natural disasters (volcano eruption, tsunami) can result in a PTSD. In both cases it is clear that these kinds of events are outside the bounds of “normal”, everyday experiences. The stressors mentioned here all have one thing in common: they can pose a serious threat to one’s life or environment. DSM-IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders IV, 1995) specifies these traumatic stressors as one of the criterion of PTSD. The stressor must suit at least one of the following:
• Experience of an event which involves a serious injury or actual or threatened death.
• Witnessing an event involving death or injury of other persons.
• Learning or hearing about unexpected or violent death, harm, threat of death or injury by a family member or close relative.
This criterion is only concerned with the possible cause of a PTSD. Not everyone will develop a PTSD when confronted with one of the above mentioned stressors. Therefore more criteria are needed to cover the response and possible symptoms following a traumatic event.
DSM-IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders IV, 1995) states that a person’s response to a stressor must involve fear, helplessness or horror. Next to this response, people who have developed a PTSD also experience certain symptoms related to the trauma. One such a symptom is the persistent re-experiencing of the stressor, as mentioned in the definition of a PTSD. There are various ways this symptom can occur. DSM-IV describes these as a new criterion:
• Recurrent recollections of the event. This includes thoughts, perceptions and images. Not only when the person is awake, but also when the person is asleep.
• The person feels or thinks as if the traumatic event recurs.
• The person is distressed when exposed to various stimuli related to the traumatic event.
• Physiological reactivity on exposure to the stimuli mentioned in the previous criterion.
Strongly related to this symptom is the persistent avoidance of specific stimuli. Of course the avoidance must occur after the exposure of the stressor. DSM-IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders IV, 1995) states that avoidance is one of the criteria related to PTSD and that at least three of the following indicators should be true.
• Avoidance of feelings, thoughts or conversations associated to the trauma
• Avoidance of activities, places or people which may trigger recollections of the trauma
• The inability to recall an important part of the traumatic event
• Lost interest in certain activities
• Feelings of detachment from friends or family members
• Limited experience of feeling or emotion
• Only thinking about the near future
Another important symptom and criterion is the increase of arousal of a person. This may lead to difficulties sleeping and concentrating. The increased arousal can also lead to sudden outbursts of anger and hyper vigilance (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders IV, 1995). The duration of these symptoms, including the re-experiencing and avoidance of the stressor, must be longer than one month.
Fear structure and emotional processing theory
(Taken from Research assignment )
Some of the treatments which will be described in the next chapter, such as imaginal exposure, are strongly related to the emotional processing theory by Foa and Kozak (E. B. Foa & Kozak, 1986). This theory states that patients with a PTSD have developed so-called ‘fear structures’ consisting of information about:
• Stimuli associated with a traumatic event
• (Their) behavioural responses
• Meaning representations
The stimuli were already mentioned in the previous paragraph. People exposed to a stressor will remember facts about associated stimuli. For example a vehicle that exploded after it hits another car or seeing a comrade die by a mine.
Not only information about the stimuli is remembered but also facts about the behavioural response of the person at that time. For example a racing heart beat and perspiration.
And the last aspect is information about the meaning representation of the traumatic event. The meaning representation of a certain event can, of course, differ from person to person. The representation is strongly related to the stressors and criteria mentioned in the first part of the previous paragraph. One can, for example, associate an explosion to death or death of relatives.
Some treatments are based on activation of this fear structure using repeated exposure and adding new learning elements while anxiety is reduced (E. B. Foa & Kozak, 1986; E. B. Foa, Riggs, Massie, & Yarczower, 1995). Studies (E. B. Foa, et al., 1995) have shown that there is a correlation between activation of this fear structure and improvement in treatment.
Beck, J. G., Palyo, S. A., Winer, E. H., Schwagler, B. E., & Ang, E. J. (2007). Virtual Reality Exposure Therapy for PTSD symptoms after a road accident: An uncontrolled case series. [Article]. Behavior Therapy, 38(1), 39-48.
Bradley, R. (2005). A multidimensional meta-analysis of psychotherapy for PTSD (vol 162, pg 214, 2005). [Correction]. American Journal of Psychiatry, 162(4), 832-832.
Bush, J. (2008). Viability of virtual reality exposure therapy as a treatment alternative. [Article]. Computers in Human Behavior, 24(3), 1032-1040.
Cahill, S. P., Carrigan, M. H., & Frueh, B. C. (1999). Does EMDR Work? And if so, Why?: A Critical Review of Controlled Outcome and Dismantling Research. Journal of Anxiety Disorders, 13(1-2), 5-33.
Dayan, E. (2006) ARGAMAN: Rapid Deployment Virtual Reality System for PTSD Rehabilitation, International Conference on Information Technology: Research and education, 34-38
Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders IV (1995). American Psychiatric Association.
Difede, J., Cukor, J., Jayasinghe, N., Patt, I., Jedel, S., Spielman, L., et al. (2007). Virtual reality exposure therapy for the treatment of Posttraumatic stress disorder following September 11, 2001. [Article]. Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 68(11), 1639-1647.
Ehlers, A., & Clark, D. M. (2000). A cognitive model of posttraumatic stress disorder. [Article]. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 38(4), 319-345.
Emmelkamp, P. M. G., Bouman, T. K., & Scholing, A. (1995). Anxiety disorders: a practitioner's guide. Chichester: John Wiley & Sons.
Emmelkamp, P. M. G., Krijn, M., Hulsbosch, A. M., de Vries, S., Schuemie, M. J., & van der Mast, C. (2002). Virtual reality treatment versus exposure in vivo: a comparative evaluation in acrophobia. [Article]. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 40(5), 509-516.
Foa, E. B., Hembree, E. A., & Rothbaum, B. O. (2007). Prolonged exposure therapy for PTSD: emotional processing of traumatic experiences. Therpist guide. New York: Oxford University Press.
Foa, E. B., & Kozak, M. J. (1986). EMOTIONAL PROCESSING OF FEAR - EXPOSURE TO CORRECTIVE INFORMATION. [Review]. Psychological Bulletin, 99(1), 20-35.
Foa, E. B., Riggs, D. S., Massie, E. D., & Yarczower, M. (1995). THE IMPACT OF FEAR ACTIVATION AND ANGER ON THE EFFICACY OF EXPOSURE TREATMENT FOR POSTTRAUMATIC-STRESS-DISORDER. [Article]. Behavior Therapy, 26(3), 487-499.
Foa, E. B., Steketee, G., & Rothbaum, B. O. (1989). BEHAVIORAL COGNITIVE CONCEPTUALIZATIONS OF POST-TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER. [Review]. Behavior Therapy, 20(2), 155-176.
Garcia-Palacios, A., Hoffman, H., Carlin, A., Furness, T. A., & Botella, C. (2002). Virtual reality in the treatment of spider phobia: a controlled study. [Article]. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 40(9), 983-993.
Harvey, A. G., Bryant, R. A., & Tarrier, N. (2003). Cognitive behaviour therapy for posttraumatic stress disorder. [Article]. Clinical Psychology Review, 23(3), 501-522.
Hoffman, H. G., Garcia-Palacios, A., Carlin, A., Furness, T. A., & Botella-Arbona, C. (2003). Interfaces that heal: Coupling real and virtual objects to treat spider phobia. [Article]. International Journal of Human-Computer Interaction, 16(2), 283-300.
Hoffman, H. G., & Ieee Comp, S. O. C. (1998, Mar 14-18). Physically touching virtual objects using tactile augmentation enhances the realism of virtual environments. Paper presented at the IEEE 1998 Virtual Reality Annual International Symposium, Atlanta, Ga.
Hoge, C. W., Castro, C. A., Messer, S. C., McGurk, D., Cotting, D. I., & Koffman, R. L. (2004). Combat duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, mental health problems, and barriers to care. [Article]. New England Journal of Medicine, 351(1), 13-22.
Jaycox, L. H., Foa, E. B., & Morral, A. R. (1996, Nov). Influence of emotional engagement and habituation on exposure therapy for PTSD. Paper presented at the Annual Convention of the Association-for-the-Advancement-of-Behavior-Therapy, New York, New York.
Lang, P. J. (1977). IMAGERY IN THERAPY - INFORMATION-PROCESSING ANALYSIS OF FEAR. [Article]. Behavior Therapy, 8(5), 862-886.
Lange, A., van de Ven, J. P., Schrieken, B., & Emmelkamp, P. M. G. (2001). Interapy. Treatment of posttraumatic stress through the Internet: a controlled trial. [Article]. Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry, 32(2), 73-90.
Marks, I., Lovell, K., Noshirvani, H., & Livanou, M. (1998). Treatment of posttraumatic stress disorder by exposure and/or cognitive restructuring - A controlled study. [Article]. Archives of General Psychiatry, 55(4), 317-325.
Mast, C. A. P. G. v. d. (2009, 24 April 2009). Virtual Reality and Phobias TUDelft, from http://mmi.tudelft.nl/~vrphobia/
Mental Health Advisory Team (2006). Operation Iraqi Freedom 05-07. Washington DC.
Milliken, C. S., Auchterlonie, J. L., & Hoge, C. W. (2007). Longitudinal assessment of mental health problems among active and reserve component soldiers returning from the Iraq war. [Article]. Jama-Journal of the American Medical Association, 298(18), 2141-2148.
National Institute of Mental Health (2006). Anxiety disorders.
Parsons, T. D., & Rizzo, A. A. (2008). Affective outcomes of virtual reality exposure therapy for anxiety and specific phobias: A meta-analysis. [Article]. Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry, 39(3), 250-261.
Raudis, S., & Yustitskis, V. (2008). The Yerkes-Dodson law: The link between stimulation and learning success. [Article]. Voprosy Psikhologii(3), 119-+.
Reger, G. M., & Gahm, G. A. (2008). Virtual reality exposure therapy for active duty soldiers. [Article]. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 64(8), 940-946.
Resick, P. A., Nishith, P., Weaver, T. L., Astin, M. C., & Feuer, C. A. (2002). A comparison of cognitive-processing therapy with prolonged exposure and a waiting condition for the treatment of chronic posttraumatic stress disorder in female rape victims. [Article]. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 70(4), 867-879.
Rime, B., Mesquita, B., Philippot, P., & Boca, S. (1991). BEYOND THE EMOTIONAL EVENT - 6 STUDIES ON THE SOCIAL SHARING OF EMOTION. [Article]. Cognition & Emotion, 5(5-6), 435-465.
Riva, G., Molinari, E., & Vincelli, F. (2002). Interaction and presence in the clinical relationship: Virtual reality (VR) as communicative medium between patient and therapist. [Article]. Ieee Transactions on Information Technology in Biomedicine, 6(3), 198-205.
Rizzo, A. A., Graap, K., McLay, R. N., Perlman, K., Rothbaum, B. O., Reger, G., et al. (2007, Sep 27-29). Virtual Iraq: Initial case reports from a VR exposure therapy application for combat-related post traumatic stress disorder. Paper presented at the Virtual Rehabilitation Conference 2007, Venice, ITALY.
Rothbaum, B. O., Hodges, L., Alarcon, R., Ready, D., Shahar, F., Graap, K., et al. (1999). Virtual reality exposure therapy for PTSD Vietnam veterans: A case study. [Article]. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 12(2), 263-271.
Rothbaum, B. O., Hodges, L. F., Ready, D., Graap, K., & Alarcon, R. D. (2001). Virtual reality exposure therapy for Vietnam veterans with posttraumatic stress disorder. [Article]. Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 62(8), 617-622.
Scheumie, M. J., & Mast, C. A. P. G. v. d. (2000). Virtual Reality in de therapie. Delft: Nederlands Instituut voor Psychologen.
Schoutrop, M., Lange, A., Hanewald, G., Duurland, C., & Bermond, B. (1997). The effects of structured writing assignments on overcoming major stressful events: An uncontrolled study. [Article]. Clinical Psychology & Psychotherapy, 4(3), 179-185.
Vaughan, K., & Tarrier, N. (1992). THE USE OF IMAGE HABITUATION TRAINING WITH POSTTRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDERS. [Article]. British Journal of Psychiatry, 161, 658-664.