How Floating Therapy Can Reduce Anxiety

What is Float Therapy?

Float therapy involves laying on your back in a shallow flat tank of water that’s saturated with Epsom salts. The salts make it possible to effortlessly float with your nose, mouth, and eyes above the water. Tanks are located in temperature-controlled, dark, soundproof rooms, which eliminates any input from the senses. With sensory isolation, your mind is removed from the constant bombardment of stressful stimuli that are generally faced each day, allowing the body to go into a state of meditation and relaxation.

Clinical Anxiety

Today, millions of Americans experience some type of clinical anxiety, and anxiety often results in various emotional, psychological, and physical symptoms. According to the Mayo Clinic, some of the most common symptoms of anxiety include:

  • Feeling a sense of panic
  • Shortness of breath
  • Restlessness, muscle tension
  • Problems sleeping
  • Irrational Fears
  • Difficulty focusing
  • Experiencing a variety of gastrointestinal problems
  • Increased heart rate
  • Trembling
  • Feeling tired or weak
  • Breathing very rapidly
  • Sweating
  • Problems controlling your worry
  • The urge to avoid the things that trigger your anxiety

If you deal with one of the many anxiety disorders, science is showing that heading to a float spa may be an effective treatment.

Float Therapy – The Effects on People with Anxiety

Previously, research has shown that float therapy helps to increase relaxation and reduce stress. However, many studies have used healthy subjects, with few studies looking at how floating works for people with anxiety. Recent research published in PLoS ONEwas done to specifically look at how floating affects people with the symptoms of depression, stress, and anxiety.

The study involved 50 participants exhibiting a wide variety of stress-related and anxiety disorders such as generalized anxiety, social anxiety, panic, and posttraumatic stress. The study also included 30 healthy individuals to offer context. After experiencing floatation therapy, 47 out of 50 patients felt that floating could be an effective intervention for reducing levels of anxiety and every participant requested to try the treatment again. Overall, the study showed that just one float was able to improve mood and reduce anxiety, suggesting that it may be an effective treatment for anxiety.

Float Therapy and the Relaxation Response

Research recently published in the BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine journal took a closer look at sensory deprivation in float tanks as an intervention for stress-related ill health. The publication looked at how stress often results in problems with insomnia, depression, and anxiety. Floatation therapy has the ability to relive the spiraling cycle of stress that triggering the relaxation response in the body. The relaxation response, which is the opposite of the fight-or-flight response, impacts the parasympathetic nervous system, reducing blood pressure, heart rate, and slowing breathing. Igniting the relaxation response during stress involves reducing bodily movement and sensory input, something that float therapy does very well.

In the study, which involved 65 participants, the flotation group saw reduced levels of pain, stress, depression, and anxiety after receiving 12 45-minute float sessions over seven weeks. Prior to treatment, the anxiety score of the group was 7.92, and after floating the anxiety score dropped to 4.28. Along with a reduction in anxiety, the flotation group also saw improvements in mindfulness, optimism, and sleep quality.

Discoveries from the Country’s Only Float Clinic and Research Center

There’s only one Float Clinic and Research Center, and it’s located in Oklahoma at the Laureate Institute for Brain Research. Run by neuropsychologist Justin Feinstein, research is done by patients by sticking a waterproof EEG device and sensors on the head to measure brainwaves. After a float, patients undergo an MRI to look at their brain. Although the research is still in its early stages, Feinstein and his team have seen that floating reduces anxiety in the brain in a way rivaling meditation and certain medications. After a float, the amygdala, the area of the brain where your fight-or-flight response originates shuts down, which may be why it’s effective at reducing stress and anxiety.

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, anxiety disorders happen to be the most common mental illness within the United States. In fact, more than 18% of the population is affected by anxiety. While many people are on medications to treat anxiety symptoms, new research is beginning to show that float therapy may be an effective alternative treatment for individuals with anxiety. If you’re dealing with anxiety and looking for a proven alternative therapy to treat it, visit our float spa and see how floating can reduce anxiety while offering other benefits like reduced pain, improved relaxation, and better sleep at night.