Floating for PTSD


PTSD: Like Being Shoved Off a Cliff

Our lives are made up of experiences. Each and every experience we have changes us on a deep, biological level. This means we are changing every day. We are always moving in either a positive or a negative direction, and much of this movement is based on momentum.

To understand this, take note of the difference you feel on days you begin with meditation, prayer, or exercise versus the days you are in a rush from the moment your eyes open. I can promise you that most of those road-ragers on your morning commute forgot to meditate before leaving the house. The further we get into our day allowing the same momentum to carry us, the harder it is to reverse direction. This is great on days we’re riding a positive wave and rough on days we aren’t. Either way, I often wonder how much of our “innate personality” is actually just unchecked momentum we didn’t know we could slow down.

Obviously, different experiences have different levels of force—some nudge, others push, and particularly intense ones may feel like being shoved off a cliff. When such an event hurls us in a negative direction, it is called trauma, and the psychological consequences can be just as all-consuming and scary as the occurrence itself. Like any experience, trauma changes us, but much more quickly and deeply, and it can be much harder to stop the subsequent momentum. Trauma can change one’s brain, turning our amygdala—where our fight-or-flight response lives—on hyper-drive. A heightened stress response at unnecessary times, with all its side effects, becomes a regular obstacle in a traumatized person’s life. This condition is known as Post-Traumatic-Stress-Disorder, and it can come with a host of symptoms including depression, flashbacks, avoidance, and anxiety.

“You can’t patch a wounded soul with a Band-aid.”

—Michael Connelly

PTSD affects over 24 million Americans today, and while treatments for the condition are getting better, many still struggle to slow their fall. It is not uncommon to meet sufferers who have tried several forms of treatment, from pharmaceuticals to clinical therapy, without much relief.

Floating may be changing that.

Floating for PTSD

Justin Feinstein, a neuropsychologist at the Laureate Institute for Brain Research in Oklahoma, is currently studying what happens to one’s brain while floating. Early results show that while in the deeply relaxing state achieved in a float tank, the amygdala gets shut off. The constant stress behind the momentum pushing someone into darker places goes away, at least for a while. This would allow someone with PTSD to finally deal with their past in a completely safe space and could explain how floating has been able to show a reduction in anxiety and insomnia. One veteran described his first experience in a float tank this way: “My first float was very amazing to me. I was able to put in line 3 years worth of stuff that was trapped in my head in pretty much an hour session.” He continued to float and was later able to completely go off of his anti-depressants.

Once published, Feinstein’s research will be the first to show floating’s benefit specifically for stress-related disorders, including PTSD. While we’re waiting for those results, however, more and more anecdotes keep surfacing from people diagnosed with PTSD who have greatly benefited from flotation therapy.

SYNC Teams Up With Weightless Warrior

We’re very excited about the potential floating has to help those who suffer from PTSD. So much so that we’re pleased to announce our partnership with Weightless Warrior, a community of float centers offering free floats to veterans with PTSD. We are helping to advocate for and solidify floating as a treatment for this demographic by collecting data along the way. If you are a veteran or think you may know one who might benefit from flotation therapy, please send them our way—we’d be happy to help.

Please share this with anyone you feel might benefit from it and head to our Library for more information on the benefits of floating. You can also connect with us on social media: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram.


Also published on Medium.