How can floating help PTSD?
Living with PTSD is not easy, but treatment options are available—and as a complement to traditional methods of treatment such as cognitive and exposure therapy. Fortunately, floatation therapy is a natural therapy that can help alleviate PTSD symptoms and nurture physical and psychological healing.
Floating Relieves PTSD-Related Stress. First and foremost, floating has a proven track record of reducing stress. Especially for PTSD sufferers who experience ongoing anxiety and tenseness, an hour of complete quiet and calmness in a float tank can be an incredible relief.
Floating Alleviates Comorbid Disorders & Symptoms. A person suffering from PTSD often develops one or more related disorders (clinically known as “comorbid disorders”), such as depression, anxiety, or substance abuse(2). Floating can provide immense and immediate relief to many of these related disorders, as well as relief from the chronic pain that many survivors of combat wounds or physical traumas may carry with them years after the initial event.
While treating these symptoms is not precisely the same as treating PTSD, an individual who feels less pain, gets a good night of sleep, and is able to curb unhealthy smoking or drinking habits is very likely to feel better overall—and be better equipped to confront and deal with the trauma behind their PTSD.
Floating Enhances Meditation, a Complementary PTSD Therapy. Finally, floating can enhance one of the most promising alternative treatments for PTSD: meditation. Multiple studies(3,4) have shown that meditation practice combined with traditional therapy can improve the severity of PTSD symptoms—and there is a growing body of research that indicates time in the float tank makes meditation more accessible and effective for its practitioners.
Personal Accounts on Floating & PTSD
Many people suffering with PTSD have reported finding great relief in the float tank. Here are just a few of their powerful testimonies:
One young veteran interviewed by an Austin, Texas news channel described his experience as immensely helpful, saying “I was able to put in line three years of stuff that was trapped in my head…I came off of Zoloft all the way and was on no medications at all. I’m more inclined to learn, I’m more inclined to be in a positive mood.”
Chief Master Sgt. Michael A. Roberts described his float experience. Roberts, who suffers from PTSD as a result of a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), said the practice of seeing multiple different medical specialists over and over exacerbated his stress stemming from the incident that caused his injuries.
“Float therapy is far superior to other traditional routes, [such as] varying types of drug regiments—one way or another they just temporarily overpower your brain and cause some form of blurred reality—and explaining your situation over and over again to multiple specialists as each one gets to know you and your situation, which caused me recurring internal anxiety and agitation,” he said. “I’ve tried them all. When I’m in the float pod the absolute serenity and calmness is entirely therapeutic.”
Roberts said the peace he achieves is entirely internal and self-perpetuated. “My pains and stresses are automatically lifted away without me having to say a word to anyone… or take any new pill”
Float Boston asked an individual living with PTSD to chronicle his experience in the float tank. Part of his recollection included the powerful effect of floating on his insomnia and nightmares, saying, “The evening after the first float, it felt as though I was able to “conjure” the connection of higher and lower brain, and relax into sleep. That night, I did not experience any nightmares, and woke feeling rested, and calm.”
Michael Harding, on Floating for PTSD
Australian soldier Michael Harding, featured in Time’s 2015 article on floatation therapy, developed PTSD after spending hours under siege and witnessing the death of his second-in-command. After his medical discharge, he suffered from anxiety, sleep problems, nightmares, and emotional distress. Talk therapy, medication, and alcohol didn’t help, so when Harding’s wife found mention of floating in online forums, he tried it. As Time describes:
Time Magazine. Mental health treatment: How float clinics treat anxiety
Float research holds exciting news for anxiety & PTSD. Time magazine takes a look into the the Float Clinic and Research Center at the Laureate Institute for Brain Research in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
How Navy Seals use float tanks for concussions & PTSD
Learn how the Navy SEALs are using float tanks for recovery, improved sleep, to rewire the brain, accelerate learning, and treat concussions.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. National Institute of Mental Health, last revised February 2016.
Posttraumatic Stress Disorder in the National Comorbidity Survey. Ronald C. Kessler, PhD; Amanda Sonnega, PhD; Evelyn Bromet, PhD; Michael Hughes, PhD; Christopher B. Nelson, MPH, PhD. Arch Gen Psychiatry, 1995.
Transcendental Meditation in the Treatment of Post-Vietnam Adjustment. James S. Brooks, Thomas Scarano. Journal of Counseling & Development, November 1985.
Meditation-based mantram intervention for veterans with posttraumatic stress disorder: A randomized trial. Jill E. Bormann; Steven R. Thorp; Julie L. Wetherell; Shahrokh Golshan; Ariel J. Lang. Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy, May 2013.
Quality of life with flotation therapy for a person diagnosed with attention deficit disorder, atypical autism, PTSD, anxiety and depression. Anette Kjellgren, Hanna Edebol, Tommy Nordén, Torsten Norlander. Open Journal of Medical Psychology, 2013.