Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

When you hear the term PTSD or post-traumatic stress disorder, you usually think of soldiers who have seen intense combat duty, but the condition can be experienced by many different people from all walks of life and it is not limited to military personnel.

PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) and Floating

PTSD is a complex disorder that is still being studied by mental health professionals.

Those suffering from its effects may be afflicted for a temporary period that is resolved with treatment, or they may suffer from the disorder in a more chronic capacity.

Before we can dive into the common causes of post-traumatic stress disorder, we must first understand exactly what the disorder is.

Mental health professionals define the condition as an issue that develops in some people after they witness a life-threatening event.

The symptoms of PTSD

The symptoms of PTSD include:

  • having vivid flashbacks or nightmares where you are stuck reliving the event
  • avoiding situations, places or activities that remind you of the event
  • having a change in personality or temperament. For example, they may carry around overwhelming feelings of guilt or shame
  • no longer liking or wanting to do activities they previously enjoyed
  • experiencing deep trust issues in people, society, or the world as a whole
  • sinking into a numb feeling and no longer being able to feel joy or happiness
  • being startled or agitated easily
  • acting in a reckless manner by abusing drugs or alcohol.

Not every person will experience all of these symptoms, but instead, they may suffer from any of them at different times on their road to recovery.

The causes of PTSD are varied and many and are often dependent on a person’s mental state prior to the incident. A person already suffering from an anxiety disorder may find themselves with post-traumatic stress disorder more easily than a person that is not already anxious or depressed.

Situations or events that have been known to cause PTSD are

  • Military service especially for those that have combat experience or have been deployed to a hostile area
  • Physical, mental, or sexual abuse in childhood
  • Severe or prolonged domestic abuse
  • Sexual assault, especially a very violent incident
  • Being involved in an accident
  • Witnessing a school shooting
  • Surviving a natural disaster like an earthquake or tornado
  • Other catastrophic events like 9-11
Treatments for PTSD

In the past, post-traumatic stress disorder was mainly treated with a combination of psychotherapy and medication.

Cognitive therapy sessions and prolonged exposure therapy are two of the most common types of psychotherapy treatment. SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) are the main category of medication used to treat the disorder, included in this category are drugs like Zoloft, Paxil, and Prozac.

More recently, however, float therapy has emerged as a method for combatting the symptoms of the disorder. People have found the sense of calm and security they have in the float chambers allows them to process the events and situations that trigger their symptoms. It is a safe place where they can enter a deep meditative state and escape their chronic anxiety, and because they are able to tamper down the anxious feelings, they can develop a more positive outlook on life.

Float therapy consists of a sensory deprivation tank that blocks light and sound. It contains 12” of a water and Epsom salt solution which is kept at 95 degrees, the external body temperature. The participant floats nude in the saltwater solution in an effortless manner in order to rid themselves of stress, pain, and anxiety.

The absence of light and sound combined with the weightless floating allows participants to enter a calm and relaxed state or even sink into a meditative state. In this safe environment, they can learn to control their symptoms and regain control of their life.

The tank gives the participant a break from the everyday stresses of life by allowing them to float free in the dark and the quiet. It is likened to a reboot for the brain or a reset button.

The Science of Stress: Float Away the Tension
Long-Term Impact vs. Short-Term Alteration – PTSD

One of the reasons Float therapy has had such a positive impact on sufferers of PTSD is that it can be used to create a long-term change in the brain. Sessions can be scheduled every day if needed without harm to the skin or the body, but most people find that the positive effects of the float last longer than 24 hours, but regular sessions, weekly or biweekly, are recommended for PTSD sufferers.

On the contrary, taking medications only offer short-term results as the meds only work on the brain for a limited amount of time before wearing off and the next dose is needed usually only after a couple of hours or 24 hours at the most. While medications are absolutely necessary for some people, they do come with a long list of side effects, and there is a very real danger of overdosing if not used correctly. Finding alternative, drug-free, methods of handling the symptoms of the disorder is usually of the utmost importance for those with chronic symptoms.

In one experiment, veterans who suffered from PTSD were able to completely wean themselves off of their anxiety and depression medications by using float therapy. They also saw marked improvements in their sleep patterns after just three float sessions. This treatment can be revolutionary for the care of PTSD.

Physical Benefits for PTSD Sufferers

Although PTSD is a mental disorder, it also has a huge impact on the body and also produces physiological symptoms. Many people afflicted with the disorder have noted physical symptoms like rapid unintentional weight loss, increased sense of smell, migraines, night sweats, and nausea. Due to the feelings of stress and anxiety, patients also suffer from intense muscle fatigue, insomnia, back pain, and other nonspecific physical side effects.

Floating has been shown to reduce the frequency and intensity of these physical symptoms, in addition to all the mental health benefits. When the body is weightless inside the tank, the stress on the muscles and joints fades away leaving you feeling more energized and well-rested. After experiencing complete sensory deprivation, those patients suffering from insomnia saw major improvements in their ability to fall asleep and stay asleep. Float therapy has also been known to decrease blood pressure due to the magnesium sulfate that the body is suspended in during a float.

The physical benefits of float therapy, especially on the intense pain and fatigue, make it a very beneficial treatment strategy for those suffering from PTSD or other health issues. Even just a few sessions in the sensory deprivation tank can make a marked improvement in your overall well-being. 

Mental Benefits for PTSD Sufferers

The sensory deprived state of floating has been shown to help mental focus in most people, and that effect is particularly shown in those that float on a regular basis.

Those with PTSD can sharpen their mental focus as well which leads to the ability to stop the flood of memories in a flashback. It has also been shown to be helpful in learning how to control the breath and using it as a technique to breath away through the fear and reduce the frequency and intensity of panic attacks.

Some studies have shown floating sessions to be good for memory retention, and it can also be used in behavior modification. For example, some participants have used the therapy for quitting smoking.

Neurologist Justin Feinstein founder of the Float Clinic and Research Center at the Laureate Institute for Brain Research in Tulsa, Oklahoma, has studied the effects of float therapy and believes deeply in the positive effects of sensory deprivation. He has literally built his entire career around trying to prove just how beneficial the sessions can be. In his research, he has measured brain waves of study participants while they were in the float tank, and he has done MRIs immediately after the sessions. Dr. Feinstein and his team are observing and researching the actual effects the sensory deprivation tanks have on the brain’s activity, and they are finding that floating sessions have similar effects to those produced by prescription medication.

For those that suffer from post-traumatic stress syndrome, the mental benefits of sensory deprivation and float therapy are most important of all. Floating sessions make it easier to keep the mind on the present and build the self-control necessary to combat many of the mental symptoms of PTSD. The research in using float therapy to combat the disorder is ongoing and looking more and more promising with each completed study. 

Flot, San Diego’s Float Spa

Flot is San Diego’s highest-rated float spa, and it also has the best pricing structure in the city. We offer discounts to military service members, senior citizens, and students. Sessions are either 1, 1.5, or 2 hours long, and membership packages are available for purchase.

While we recommend our sessions for those suffering from PTSD or other anxiety disorders, they are beneficial for everyone no matter your mental or physical health status. Use of the tank is not allowed for those currently suffering from an infectious disease or uncontrolled epilepsy.

Our isolation chambers are built by Float Lab Technologies and meet commercial safety and sanitation standards for commercial use. We also use a very specific Epsom salt provider that ensures our quality is above and beyond the USP rating. Before each session, our magnesium sulfate solution is purified by our patented filtration system that disinfects using a commercial grade Ozone oxidation and UV radiation. You can rest assured knowing that our disinfection system has been verified to kill 99.9% of all bacteria, viruses, molds, and fungi, but we never use harsh chemicals which are damaging to the skin. We are concerned with the sanitation and safety measures, so you don’t have to worry about anything except getting the most from your session.

Before a session, all participants shower using our organic soaps and shampoos, and if desired, the participant can shower again afterward to remove the salts from the hair and skin.

Even if you don’t normally float while swimming in a pool or in the ocean, you are guaranteed to float in the deprivation tank. The Epsom salts make the solution much more buoyant than water alone, even the salt water of the ocean. No matter your height or weight, you will float in the tank with the water reaching to about your temples, leaving your nose and mouth free for breathing.

In preparation for your float, we recommend avoiding a large meal immediately before your session and refraining from drinking a caffeinated beverage 30-min before the session. You also want to avoid alcohol as it will make it more difficult to relax in the tank. These simple instructions will help you get the most out of your sensory deprivation session.

It is advised that you do not shave the day of the session because the Epsom salt can cause stinging or an unpleasant sensation on the freshly shaved skin. Likewise, if you have any scratches or minor wounds, you will want to cover them with petroleum jelly to avoid an unpleasant burning or stinging once you enter the tank. 

Flot Is Here When You Need Us

Whether you are suffering from chronic PTSD, everyday stresses, or another anxiety disorder, sensory deprivation therapy can be beneficial for you. There are so many benefits to the treatment sessions that you will find a new outlook on life. After only a few sessions, you will feel more relaxed, less stressed, and more focused. It is even a good remedy for basic jet lag!

While floating is not a guaranteed cure for any of your health conditions, and you should never stop any prescribed medications without your doctor’s consent. We also recommend discussing your desire to undergo sensory deprivation sessions with your primary care doctor before proceeding.

Ask about our military discount and the benefits sensory deprivation can have on your PTSD today. We are proud to serve you at one of our two San Diego locations: Downtown or North Park, and we are open from 9am-11pm daily.