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Avatar systems may help treat schizophrenia symptoms
Avatar systems help people create alternate versions of themselves. These systems become a ‘safe place” for them.
Auditory hallucinations, often a major symptom of schizophrenia, can impact a person’s daily functioning and can be addressed in these alternate systems.
One way researchers in London are helping patients plagued with schizophrenia deal with hallucinations is through the use of avatar systems.
Actress Amanda Bynes has been in the news for her reported schizophrenia symptoms.
As of June 5, she has not officially been diagnosed with a mental illness but her ‘secret’ Twitter account, “Barbie” has been found.
Celebrity blogger Perez Hilton shared a few tweets in which Amanda Bynes reportedly shares the “voices” in her heard are bothering her via her secret Twitter account “Barbie”.
In his article he suggest avatar systems could potentially help Bynes address her reportedly schizophrenia symptoms. But how does this therapy approach work?
Patients are essentially asked to create an avatar which represents the voices they are hearing in their mind.
Primary investigators in charge of one avatar systems study claim some of the participants have actually stopped hearing voices all together as a result of their participation in the avatar systems therapy.
They explain: ‘Even though patients interact with the avatar as though it was a real person, because they have created it, they know that it cannot harm them, as opposed to the voices, which often threaten to kill or harm them and their family.
How does the therapy help them outside of their session?
‘We record every therapy session on MP3 so that the patient essentially has a therapist in their pocket which they can listen to at any time when harassed by the voices.
‘We’ve found that this helps them to recognise that the voices originate within their own mind and reinforces their control over the hallucinations.
While still a fairly young approach to treating symptoms of schizophrenia, avatar systems could prove a viable alternative for some patients faced with daily struggles posed by this illness.
Sources: DailyMail UK, Perez Hilton