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Float Therapy for PTSD: How Floatation Therapy Can Minimize PTSD

In our busy, stressed, constantly connected modern world, many of us don’t prioritize rest and relaxation the way we should. For most people, being aware of your stress and taking time to relax can bring you back to a healthy baseline.

But what if you’re never able to fully relax? That’s the reality for the millions of people living with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Trauma is a lasting emotional response that’s the result of a deeply distressing event. Experiencing a traumatic event can impair a person’s sense of safety and identity. Trauma can also create an inability to regulate emotions or navigate relationships

Some people who go through traumatic events have trouble coping with the experience temporarily, while others are unable to process the trauma and develop PTSD.

PTSD is a complicated and painful disorder that affects both veterans and everyday people. While float therapy could never cure PTSD, Krysus is committed to helping those with PTSD find relief. Float therapy is a holistic, drug-free option for managing a variety of health conditions, including the symptoms of PTSD.

In this guide, we’ll look at the complexities of PTSD, as well as how floatation therapy can help provide relief from PTSD’s debilitating symptoms.

Table of Contents

What is PTSD?

PTSD, or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, is a psychiatric condition that can occur after experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event or series of events. A person with PTSD experiences emotional — and even physical — harm as a result of the event. Repeated exposure to a stressful experience can cause more complex and severe symptoms, too.

Culturally, we associate this disorder with war veterans. Not every veteran has PTSD, and not every person with PTSD is a veteran. However, a 2020 survey found that 83% of U.S. veterans and active responders have experienced post-traumatic symptoms.

Even so, it’s important to remember that PTSD can occur in all people, regardless of occupation, age, gender, ethnicity, or nationality. Sadly, it’s estimated that one in 11 people will be diagnosed with PTSD during their lifetime.

This disorder is so prevalent in our society, but we don’t fully understand it. For example, scientists used to classify PTSD as an anxiety disorder, but now we classify it as a trauma and stressor-related disorder. There’s still a lot we don’t know about PTSD, but its tremendous impact on society makes it an issue of epidemic proportions.

What are the symptoms?

PTSD symptoms can manifest immediately after experiencing trauma or even years after exposure. Everyone is different, but the symptoms are generally disruptive and impair a person’s quality of life.

Post-traumatic symptoms might include any of the following:

  • Intrusive memories or flashbacks
  • Insomnia or nightmares of reliving the event
  • Emotional difficulties, such as anxiety, depression, numbness, or rage
  • Hypervigilance, or constantly looking for danger
  • Hyperarousal, or a constant feeling of being on edge
  • Chronic physical pain
  • Avoidance of people, places, objects, or situations that may trigger distressing memories

From a clinical perspective, scientists recognize that when it comes to dealing with catastrophic stress, individuals experience PTSD differently. The experience of trauma filters through your cognition and emotions, and everyone has a different threshold for trauma. Some people seem to be more protected from developing PTSD, and others are more vulnerable to developing symptoms.

We don’t entirely understand why some people develop PTSD and others don’t, but risk factors include:

  • Childhood trauma
  • Limited support after a traumatic event
  • Having career with repeated exposure to stressful situations

Traditional Treatments

For some PTSD sufferers, symptoms subside over time or with the help of their support system. However, many people need professional treatment to manage their debilitating symptoms.

Traditional treatments for people with PTSD usually include:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
  • Cognitive Exposure Therapy
  • Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)
  • Medications, such as antidepressants, anxiolytics, or sleep aids

Because PTSD is a very complex disorder, people don’t always respond to traditional treatments. The traumatic event remains a dominating psychological experience that evokes fear, anger, or despair.

Increasingly, individuals with PTSD are turning to alternative treatments like float therapy to help them heal. While float therapy should never be used as a replacement for medical treatment, it can work in tandem with other therapeutic methods to offer powerful relief to people with PTSD.

Benefits of Float Therapy for PTSD: How Float Therapy Works

Flotation therapy, also known as REST (Restricted Environmental Stimulation Therapy), can benefit people suffering from PTSD in several ways.

Reduced Anxiety

Float centers like Krysus are experts at alleviating PTSD-related anxiety.

Floating in general can reduce anxiety, although home floats generally don’t get the same result. That’s because float centers use flotation therapy tanks designed for complete buoyancy.

At Krysus, patients float in water saturated with Epsom salt. The highly concentrated salt water allows you to float without any effort. During flotation therapy, our clients relax in a peaceful environment in a pod float that’s free of external stimulation — which is even free from the pressure of gravity. The float tank is also known as an isolation cabin or sensory deprivation tank because we heat the air and water to skin temperature. The tank is also quiet and dark, which gives your brain a reprieve from constantly processing external stimuli.

In this tranquil environment, float therapy sessions create a meditative state. This can calm the nervous system, reduce blood pressure, and decrease the production of stress hormones. Stress hormones, namely cortisol, are often chronically elevated in people with PTSD.

As stress hormones decrease during the floating session, the brain starts to produce elevated levels of endorphins. These neurotransmitters are known as “feel-good” chemicals. Because endorphins have a stress and pain-relieving effect, they can also benefit those with PTSD. As endorphin levels increase, feelings of stress and anxiety decrease.

Reduced Insomnia

Float therapy can improve sleep quality for all floaters, but especially for people with PTSD. Insomnia and nightmares are core symptoms of PTSD; 70 to 90% of sufferers report difficulty sleeping.

If you struggle to fall asleep, you’re also missing out on critical healing time for your brain. You process emotional memories while you sleep, so poor sleep can affect the brain’s capacity to process these traumatic experiences.

Sometimes the human brain can’t make sense of a traumatic event while it’s occurring. Since the brain can’t process the experience immediately, the trauma becomes compartmentalized, or “stuck,” which can cause many PTSD symptoms. Floatation therapy works by easing the brain into a slower and calmer state that facilitates rest and recovery.

Research shows that regular float sessions lead to improvements in symptoms of insomnia, shorten the time it takes to fall asleep, and improve both sleep length and sleep quality. Float therapy’s ability to reduce cortisol, lower blood pressure, reduce stress-related pain, and temporarily slow brain wave activity can mitigate the symptoms of PTSD.

Reduced Physical Pain

A growing body of research shows that floating can reduce both the physical and mental symptoms of stress and anxiety.

Float therapy can lower your heart rate, reduce stress-related muscle pain and tension, improve fatigue, and lower anxiety levels. At the same time, float therapy promotes a positive mood, sustained energy, and deep relaxation. All of these benefits make float therapy for PTSD a solid addition to your therapeutic regimen.

Research on Float Tank Therapy

Many people try float therapy for PTSD, but what does the scientific research say about this approach?

Findings from a limited number of clinical studies show positive results of float therapy for PTSD.

In 2013, a case study at Karlstad University in Sweden provided very promising results. The subject, a woman diagnosed with PTSD, atypical autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, anxiety, and depression underwent float therapy for a year and a half. Before floating, the patient had severe social anxiety, sleep problems, and intrusive negative thoughts and emotions.

Researchers at the university followed her progress closely, and after two years, the patient reported a decrease in PTSD-related symptoms and a significant increase in her quality of life.

Obviously, researchers need more data before they can definitively say whether float therapy helps patients with PTSD. However, this thorough study laid the foundation for future clinical studies with larger populations.

Anecdotally, many people say that float therapy for PTSD changed their lives.

Dr. Justin Feinstein of the Laureate Institute of Brain Research has dedicated his career to studying people with stress-related disorders like PTSD, and he found that people with the highest levels of stress get the most benefits from floating.

Michael Harding, an Australian soldier diagnosed with PTSD, found relief from float therapy. Cody Austell, a U.S. Army veteran diagnosed with PTSD also reported a significant decrease in his symptoms with float therapy.

Krysus Understands PTSD: Start Floating Today

At Krysus, we’re dedicated to helping you heal your mind, body, and spirit.

As former U.S. military service members, our founders are dedicated to helping active duty service members and veterans recover. While it can’t cure PTSD, float therapy can certainly reduce the symptoms of PTSD, making it easier to recover, both mentally and physically, from this debilitating disorder. 

Krysus is here to help: book a float session today.