Real life earthquake simulator to treat disaster trauma

As an intriguing follow-up to our recent story on using virtual reality to treat battle-related PTSD, BBC News is reporting on a relatively low-tech solution for earthquake-related PTSD – a house on a shaking platform.

The research, led by Dr Metin Basoglu, has just been published in the journal Psychological Medicine and reports that the simulator was used to effectively treat earthquake survivors in Turkey.

One component of psychology treatments for anxiety disorders, including PTSD, involves safely introducing the person to the anxiety-inducing situation in a gradual and controlled manner so they can habituate to the stress.

This is obviously easier for trauma caused by dogs or cars than it is for earthquakes or war, and so researchers are starting to develop novel ways of simulating these conditions.

This is an excerpt from the research paper on how the simulator was used:

The earthquake simulator consisted of a small furnished house based on a shake table that could simulate earthquake tremors on nine intensity levels. The participants controlled the tremors (using a mobile control switch), stopping or starting it whenever they wanted to, and increasing the intensity whenever they felt ready for it. If the participant’s anxiety related more to the tremors, they were asked to focus on this sensation and the sight and sound of the moving objects. If their distress related more to re-experiencing trauma events, they were encouraged to talk about these events to facilitate imaginal exposure. The session was terminated when the survivors felt in complete control of their distress or fear.

What’s great about Basoglu’s method is that it could be easily and cheaply used in areas hit by earthquakes, even if the affected doesn’t have access to high technology.

It is even conceivable that hand operated version of the ‘earthquake’ simulator could be built.

Link to BBC News story “Simulator ‘conquers quake stress'”.
Link to summary of research paper on PubMed.

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