Should I Seek Therapy?

It can be difficult to know if you, or someone you care about, would benefit from therapy (with or without VR). Sometimes you can follow suggestions from a trustworthy book and make changes on your own; sometimes you can really benefit by talking with a therapist, especially one who specializes in the issues that concern you. 

We asked Dr. McMahon for her thoughts on this issue. She suggests:

There are some situations where the need for therapy is clear and urgent. 

For example: 

  • If you feel like you are in a crisis and are going to hurt yourself or someone else, go to the nearest emergency room or call your local medical emergency number (911 in North America and certain other areas), the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255), or text the Crisis Text Line: in the US text HOME to 741741, in Canada text 686868, in the United Kingdom text 85258.

  • If you are thinking you want to die, if you are getting more and more depressed all the time, or if you are so depressed you cannot function, contact your healthcare provider or a licensed mental health professional and seek treatment for depression immediately.

Some signs of depression are answering yes one or more of these questions:

  • Do you feel generally hopeless about things?

  • Do you feel sad or depressed most of the time most days?

  • Do you feel worthless or guilty most of the time?

  • When things happen you would normally enjoy, do you not enjoy them?

  • Has your appetite changed so much that you lost or gained weight without trying?

  • Do you have trouble sleeping, or do you sleep too much?

  • Do you have much less energy than usual, or do you feel agitated?

  • Do you wish you could die, or do you think about death or killing yourself?


There are a number of effective treatments for depression including therapy and antidepressant medications. Virtual reality therapy is not a factor in locating a therapist for depression because virtual reality may or may not be used in treatment. 

Some people feel depressed and experience anxiety, have panic attacks, or other anxiety-related symptoms. Clearly both depression and anxiety issues need to be treated but it can be hard to decide where to start. 

Every case is different, but in general I tell people: 

  • If panic and anxiety started before your depression, and you are only mildly depressed, try getting treatment for anxiety and panic first. Your mood may return to normal once panic is treated. Of course, if your depression gets worse, or if you are considering suicide, seek help for depression immediately.

  • If depression started before your panic symptoms, I often recommend treating the depression first. After your mood has improved, revisit anxiety treatment options if you still have—or worry about having—panic symptoms.

Anxiety issues can take many forms including:

  • Anxiety or panic attacks that may be triggered by certain situations or seem to come 'out of the blue' without a clear trigger.

  • Fears and specific phobias including agoraphobia (fear of places where there is no easy way to escape or get help), blood-injection-injury phobia (including needle phobia), claustrophobia (fear of enclosed spaces), driving phobia (vehophobia), flying phobia (aviophobia), height phobia (acrophobia), insect phobias (such as arachnophobia) or animal phobia, etc.

  • Social anxiety including performance anxiety, public speaking anxiety, and test anxiety.

  • Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD).

  • Illness anxiety disorder.

  • Stress, Tension, and Insomnia (sleep disorders).

  • Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD).

  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).


If you have anxiety symptoms, but are not sure if you should seek treatment, ask yourself:

  • Do your symptoms keep you from doing things that you would like to do?

  • Are you upset or frightened by your symptoms?


In general, if you answer yes to either of these questions and your own efforts have been unsuccessful, treatment may help you overcome your anxiety.

If mental health symptoms other than anxiety and depression are keeping you from doing things you want to do or upsetting you, talking to a licensed mental health professional may be the first step toward feeling better.

Dr. Elizabeth McMahon is a clinical psychologist who has been treating anxiety for more than 40 years and using VR therapy with clients since 2010. Her website is