“Unlike other forms of psychological disorders, the core issue in trauma is reality.”
― Bessel A. van der Kolk
Isolation Or Sensory Deprivation Tank
“The irony of sensory deprivation tanks is that in order to think outside the box, you must first go inside one.”
― Ryan Lilly
It started as just an experiment in 1950 by a psychoanalyst, John Lilly. He desired to understand the effects of isolating the brain from external stimulation and thus, invented isolation tank.
The sensory deprivation tank is a temperature-regulated, soundproof and lightproof tank filled with salt water that can isolate its user from various forms of sensory inputs. Magnesium sulfate (Epsom salt) is typically added to the water to increase its density. Mg(2+) is psychoactive, and it diffuses through the hydrated skin. The idea did not gain popularity and was soon forgotten.
The practice of sensory deprivation tank has recently cropped up in many countries around the world as flotation therapy or float tank. A float tank contains 6–12 inches of sterile water around body temperature (filtered after every usage). Over 800 lbs of medical-grade Epsom salts are put in the water that helps anyone float effortlessly. The tank is not airtight to allow plenty of oxygen supply. The therapeutic session helps in relieving stress, anxiety, pain and other similar discomforts. Lately, this practice is being used to treat people who have PTSD.
What Is PTSD?
PTSD, post-traumatic stress disorder, is a mental health disorder that some people develop after being exposed to a traumatic event, such as sexual assault, warfare, traffic collisions, or some other life-threats. Many war veterans suffer from PTSD due to the violence they witness. It often leads to severe mental health issues and may end with the person committing suicide. It is necessary to understand how it happens and more importantly, how it can be treated.
People who have witnessed violent acts or repeatedly faced life-threatening situations are more vulnerable to PTSD.
Individuals who are likely to develop PTSD may have been through:
- Military experience
- Domestic violence
- Survivor’s guilt
- Drug abuse
- Sexual assault
Unlike physical health problems, symptoms of mental disorder go unnoticed during early stages. The symptoms may surface six months or more after the traumatic event.
Usually, following are some of the symptoms:
These symptoms can be treated with therapy, medication, military programs, and more, but a new solution i.e. floatation therapy has proved to be more simple and effective.
Hope For PTSD Patients
Antidepressant or Antipsychotic drugs are usually prescribed to those who have PTSD. They help in reducing anxiety and stress but have many side-effects including headache, nausea, sleeplessness, and agitation. These drugs are also addictive and do not cure the disorder.
After meditation and yoga became popular all around the world, people also started using flotation therapy. Initially, it was more of a fashion statement, but now studies suggest that it helps in treating PTSD also.
When you start to float comfortably in the float tank, your spine decompresses. It allows the nervous system to relax more. Your muscles and joints remain loose and at complete rest. The floaters feel weightless, which helps in relieving the stress from the pressure points and joints.
The temperature of the water matches the outside sensory touch of the skin. It results in losing the sense of water within few minutes, and you can be touch free. The lack of stimuli allows your brain to confront suppressed images or memories with less traumatic effects
The level of relaxation achieved in a float tank is similar to that achieved with anti-anxiety drugs or meditation. Many war veterans who suffered from PTSD were encouraged to try sensory deprivation tank. After using it for three months, it was noted that people experienced less anxiety, hyper-vigilance, and nightmares.
With its extensive benefits, more and more people are trying flotation therapy, either to relieve body pain, stress, anxiety or just to relax. Some people claimed to have psychedelic experiences without the consumption of any drugs. Since it is just water and salt in a tank, it is side-effect free. It is an excellent way to refresh your body and brain. Take a break from the daily tensions and try floatation therapy for good.