Social Anxiety Can Be Triggered by 360-Degree Videos in Virtual Reality: A Pilot Study Exploring Fear of Shopping

Cyberpsychol Behav Soc Netw. 2020 Jul;23(7):495-499. doi: 10.1089/cyber.2019.0295. Epub 2020 Jun 17.


Social anxiety disorder (SAD) involves intense fear of being scrutinized, judged, or embarrassed in public. Virtual reality exposure therapy (VRET) is an exposure tool for SAD. Previous studies have developed computer-generated avatars and virtual environments, but this method is time-consuming and expensive. Preliminary evidence shows that 360-degree virtual reality (VR) videos with real-life situations may be an easy, relatively cheap, and effective alternative. This study aimed to develop VR videos with real-life content from a shopping situation and to evaluate participants' anxiety responses and feelings of presence. Three 360-degree VR videos were filmed in a shopping center. Nine patients with SAD and nine controls matched on gender and age participated in the study. The participants' levels of anxiety during the VR videos were assessed using the Subjective Unit of Discomfort Scale and through semistructured interviews. The SAD patients reported higher levels of presence and significantly increased anxiety levels before, during, and after the videos, whereas controls reported no symptom of anxiety. The patients found the videos authentic and recommended VRET to be integrated into the early stages of treatment before in vivo exposure. Anxiety responses can be triggered in patients with SAD by 360-degree shopping videos. Further studied are needed to investigate the potential of using 360-degree videos for VRET in anxiety disorders.

Keywords: 360-degree videos; exposure therapy; social anxiety disorder; virtual reality.

MeSH terms

  • Fear*
  • Humans
  • Phobia, Social* / psychology
  • Phobia, Social* / therapy
  • Pilot Projects
  • Video Recording
  • Virtual Reality Exposure Therapy*