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Automated virtual reality therapies are being developed to increase access to psychological interventions. We assessed the experience with one such therapy of patients diagnosed with psychosis, including satisfaction, side effects, and positive experiences of access to the technology. We tested whether side effects affected therapy.
In a clinical trial 122 patients diagnosed with psychosis completed baseline measures of psychiatric symptoms, received gameChange VR therapy, and then completed a satisfaction questionnaire, the Oxford-VR Side Effects Checklist, and outcome measures.
79 (65.8%) patients were very satisfied with VR therapy, 37 (30.8%) were mostly satisfied, 3 (2.5%) were indifferent/mildly dissatisfied, and 1 (0.8%) person was quite dissatisfied. The most common side effects were: difficulties concentrating because of thinking about what might be happening in the room (n = 17, 14.2%); lasting headache (n = 10, 8.3%); and the headset causing feelings of panic (n = 9, 7.4%). Side effects formed three factors: difficulties concentrating when wearing a headset, feelings of panic using VR, and worries following VR. The occurrence of side effects was not associated with number of VR sessions, therapy outcomes, or psychiatric symptoms. Difficulties concentrating in VR were associated with slightly lower satisfaction. VR therapy provision and engagement made patients feel: proud (n = 99, 81.8%); valued (n = 97, 80.2%); and optimistic (n = 96, 79.3%).
Patients with psychosis were generally very positive towards the VR therapy, valued having the opportunity to try the technology, and experienced few adverse effects. Side effects did not significantly impact VR therapy. Patient experience of VR is likely to facilitate widespread adoption.
Agoraphobic avoidance of everyday situations is a common feature in many mental health disorders. Avoidance can be due to a variety of fears, including concerns about negative social evaluation, panicking, and harm from others. The result is inactivity and isolation. Behavioural avoidance tasks (BATs) provide an objective assessment of avoidance and in situ anxiety but are challenging to administer and lack standardisation. Our aim was to draw on the principles of BATs to develop a self-report measure of agoraphobia symptoms.
The scale was developed with 194 patients with agoraphobia in the context of psychosis, 427 individuals in the general population with high levels of agoraphobia, and 1094 individuals with low levels of agoraphobia. Factor analysis, item response theory, and receiver operating characteristic analyses were used. Validity was assessed against a BAT, actigraphy data, and an existing agoraphobia measure. Test–retest reliability was assessed with 264 participants.
An eight-item questionnaire with avoidance and distress response scales was developed. The avoidance and distress scales each had an excellent model fit and reliably assessed agoraphobic symptoms across the severity spectrum. All items were highly discriminative (avoidance: a = 1.24–5.43; distress: a = 1.60–5.48), indicating that small increases in agoraphobic symptoms led to a high probability of item endorsement. The scale demonstrated good internal reliability, test–retest reliability, and validity.
The Oxford Agoraphobic Avoidance Scale has excellent psychometric properties. Clinical cut-offs and score ranges are provided. This precise assessment tool may help focus attention on the clinically important problem of agoraphobic avoidance.
When vaccination depends on injection, it is plausible that the blood-injection-injury cluster of fears may contribute to hesitancy. Our primary aim was to estimate in the UK adult population the proportion of COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy explained by blood-injection-injury fears.
In total, 15 014 UK adults, quota sampled to match the population for age, gender, ethnicity, income and region, took part (19 January–5 February 2021) in a non-probability online survey. The Oxford COVID-19 Vaccine Hesitancy Scale assessed intent to be vaccinated. Two scales (Specific Phobia Scale-blood-injection-injury phobia and Medical Fear Survey–injections and blood subscale) assessed blood-injection-injury fears. Four items from these scales were used to create a factor score specifically for injection fears.
In total, 3927 (26.2%) screened positive for blood-injection-injury phobia. Individuals screening positive (22.0%) were more likely to report COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy compared to individuals screening negative (11.5%), odds ratio = 2.18, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.97–2.40, p < 0.001. The population attributable fraction (PAF) indicated that if blood-injection-injury phobia were absent then this may prevent 11.5% of all instances of vaccine hesitancy, AF = 0.11; 95% CI 0.09–0.14, p < 0.001. COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy was associated with higher scores on the Specific Phobia Scale, r = 0.22, p < 0.001, Medical Fear Survey, r = 0.23, p = <0.001 and injection fears, r = 0.25, p < 0.001. Injection fears were higher in youth and in Black and Asian ethnic groups, and explained a small degree of why vaccine hesitancy is higher in these groups.
Across the adult population, blood-injection-injury fears may explain approximately 10% of cases of COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy. Addressing such fears will likely improve the effectiveness of vaccination programmes.
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