For those suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or know a loved one who’s suffering from PTSD, a new study suggest if one receives therapy within hours of experiencing trauma, it can help reduce the effects of PTSD.

PTSD is an anxiety disorder that follows after a traumatic experience. Its symptoms may range anywhere from nightmares, flashbacks and physical hyperarousal symptoms which can affect your sleep, and/or concentration.

In a study conducted by Barbara Rothbaum, a professor in the department of psychiatry and behavioral sciences and director of the Trauma and Anxiety Recovery Program at Emory University School of Medicine, exposure therapy with the use of virtual reality, provides the most successful treatment for those suffering from PTSD.

The study consisted of 137 patients from Grady Memorial Hospital, a main trauma center in Atlanta, GA, who experienced car or industrial accidents, rape, shootings or knife attacks.

Exposure treatment is where physicians assist one who is suffering from PTSD to recount the experience numerous times so one can get a sense of “mastery” over the occurrence. In recent years, along with exposure therapy, virtual reality has been implemented, where with the computer-based therapy one can experience a “sense of presence in the environment.” The virtual reality consists of a head mounted display that includes television screens. Within the virtual reality one describes his/her most dramatic experiences and the physician would create a depiction of what the patient is recounting.

According to Rothbaum, people who suffer from PTSD are “avoidant,” which makes it an obstacle for many to face their experiences and give an emotional response. She believes from observing many patients undergo the exposure and virtual reality treatment, those who listened to their tapes consistently, [they] reported a healing effect.

However, Rothbaum said, “More research is needed, but this prevention model could have significant public health implications. A long-standing hope of mental health research is to prevent the development of psychopathology in those at risk instead of being limited to symptom treatment after disease onset.”