Home Gender & Sexuality Virtual Reality Can Help Assess Sexual Aversion Disorder, Reveals New Study

Virtual Reality Can Help Assess Sexual Aversion Disorder, Reveals New Study

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Researchers have harnessed the power of virtual reality (VR) to explore the manifestations of sexual aversion disorder (SAD), a condition characterised by feelings of fear, disgust, and avoidance in sexual contexts. The study, which employed a VR Behavior Avoidance Test (VR-BAT), revealed new insights into the emotional, physiological, and behavioral responses of individuals with SAD when exposed to sexual cues. The findings were published in The Journal of Sex Research.

A total of 55 adults participated in the study, with 27 diagnosed with SAD and 28 without. The participants, recruited from two internet-based surveys, were subjected to VR-BATs featuring both sexual and non-sexual stimuli. During the tests, researchers measured anxiety, disgust, electrodermal activity, heart rate, visual, and behavioural avoidance.

The results indicated that those with SAD exhibited increased anxiety and disgust compared to those without, especially during the exposure to sexual stimuli. Notably, sexual avoidance scores were closely linked to feelings of anxiety and disgust during the sexual condition.

Key findings from the study revealed that those in the SAD group exhibited significantly higher levels of anxiety and disgust when presented with the sexual stimuli in comparison to those without SAD. This was a marked difference, showcasing the tangible effects of SAD in those who suffer from the condition. Additionally, the results demonstrated that the sexual stimuli elicited higher emotional responses for the SAD group than the non-sexual stimuli, further reinforcing the challenge faced by those with the disorder.

These findings are consistent with previous studies on anxiety disorders, highlighting the potential of VR environments to evoke and quantify aversive emotional responses in those with or without SAD. One theory for the increase in anxiety levels in both groups during the sexual condition is the discomfort of being monitored during the test and the possible unsettling nature of virtual humanoid agents.

This study offers a promising start in using VR as a diagnostic tool for sexual dysfunctions like SAD. However, to improve reliability, future research should focus on creating VR tasks that encompass a broader spectrum of sexual explicitness and various contexts where SAD typically manifests. By doing so, researchers can hone in on the specific triggers and emotional responses associated with this disorder.

As the prevalence of SAD continues to be a concern, the potential of technologies like VR in assessing and treating sexual problems can’t be overlooked. The immersive nature of VR offers an unprecedented opportunity to study and address conditions like SAD in a controlled yet realistic setting, promising more effective diagnostic and therapeutic approaches in the future.

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