VR and Reality Dissociation

Robert Koch, May 2022

Helpful Definitions

  • Virtual Reality: What is VR?

  • Dissociative Disorders: a category of mental health conditions that often involve "an involuntary escape from reality characterized by a disconnection between thoughts, identity, consciousness and memory" (more detail on the National Association on Mental Illness website)

One area of the applications and effects of Virtual Reality that is being explored is the relationship between VR and mental health, with special attention being given to dissociative disorders given the relationship between some of their most common symptoms and removal from "objective reality". A study on 30 virtual reality users found that virtual reality can result in an increase in dissociative experiences, as measured by mental health questionnaires that account for symptoms like depersonalization, derealization, and others.

The graph to the right shows the effects of VR on depersonalization, derealization, and other symptoms, as seen in the population of study participants described above.

This graph is taken from the research paper cited below.


The afformentioned study and much of the information on this page is sourced from research by Aardema et al.

Aardema, F., O'Connor, K., Côté, S., & Taillon, A. (2010). Virtual reality induces dissociation and lowers sense of presence in objective reality. Cyberpsychology, behavior and social networking, 13(4), 429–435. https://doi.org/10.1089/cyber.2009.0164