Float Therapy for Anxiety

Colin Cook

A 2016 study reported in the journal BMC Complementary Medicine and Therapies found that float therapy is an effective treatment for anxiety. The researchers convened 50 people suffering from generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), randomly selected half of them to be treated for seven weeks with flotation REST (restricted environmental stimulation technique), and put the other half on a waiting list. Among the floaters, 37% overcame their anxiety. Among the waiting list participants, the figure was only 14%.


Physiological Relief vs. Psychological Relief

Interestingly, the researchers found no reduction in pathological worry among the floaters. They surmised that floating relieved the physiological effects of anxiety — restlessness, fatigue, and muscle tensions — without necessarily affecting the psychological ones. Apparently, the physiological relief is enough to move a substantial proportion of GAD sufferers from one condition to the other.


Notably, they found that the floaters slept better at night, and apparently good sleep goes a long way to alleviate anxiety. More than a third got complete relief from floating. But the researchers felt the strongest recommendation they could make from this study was that flotation REST should be a complementary treatment to some other treatment, such as cognitive behavioral therapy. The study is, nevertheless, a powerful statement that flotation REST alleviates anxiety.


What It’s Like to Float

We don’t call it that, but flotation REST is what we offer here at Peak Recovery & Health Center. In our float tank, you are cut off from external stimuli. You are in a soundproof, lightproof tank. Heavily salted water at near body temperature allows you to float. You don’t even feel the pull of gravity on your body. The lack of stimulation reduces your self-awareness to almost nothing.

If that sounds scary to you, imagine spending 45 minutes without hearing a single ringtone. You are unlikely, in fact, to hear anything but the occasional splash of a drop of condensation. And there’s no LED screen in the tank, so you won’t see any news reports, TV commercials, or road rage incidents. The resulting state of mental and physical relaxation is far beyond what you have ever experienced if you’re not already a floater.


Thomas Fine and Roderick Borrie, in their article, “Flotation REST in Applied Psychophysiology,” summarized research in which they found a reduction in blood pressure, heart rate, and muscle tension during flotation REST, effects which persisted after the session was over. Furthermore, they found a decrease in stress mediating hormones, particularly cortisol, during the sessions. They also found the cortisol reduction to persist between flotation REST sessions, which they suggest could mean that REST actually resets the hormone to a more healthy level.


Float Therapy for Anxiety

I’ve cited research about flotation REST for generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) in this post. I hope you don’t suffer from GAD, but if you’re living and working in the year 2023, you have anxiety, even if it’s only garden-variety anxiety. I can predict that with unequivocal confidence. Fortunately, we have plenty of capacity here for you to enjoy flotation REST whether you need it therapeutically or just want a vacation from your anxiety.


Book a session or two right now to see what life is like with less anxiety.


Preview Photo: “Red and Blue Hot Air Balloon Floating on Air on Body of Water During Night Time,” by Bess Hamiti. Creative Commons License via Pexels.