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“Once you hit the water, it’s so relaxing; all anxiety is gone. You’re away from your PTSD. You’re away from any injuries you have. It’s just you and the aquarium.”
For years, Susan lived with a hyperawareness of her surroundings, an obsession with safety. A slamming door would bring her back to the sound of the gunshot and that fetid crawl space. She would wake from a nightmare, heart pounding, listening for unexpected sounds in the house.
Everywhere Jason Smith turned, it seemed death surrounded him. As a medic in the smoldering battlegrounds of Iraq, he performed CPR on fatally wounded Marines. Back home he was involved in a car wreck that left him with a traumatic brain injury and killed a friend. Before long he began hallucinating.
Sometimes the best way to overcome a traumatic experience is to relive it. Researchers at Emory have been exploring ways that combat-related post-traumatic stress disorder could be tackled by using virtual reality.