Home Case Studies How Sensory Therapies Can Help With Anxiety, From Pillows to Music

How Sensory Therapies Can Help With Anxiety, From Pillows to Music

by Pragati Singh
control depression

People who are experiencing anxiety may benefit from sensory treatment procedures.

That’s the finding of two recent research looking into the benefits of therapies that use the senses to help people cope with worry.

Music was used in one trial, and a huggable cushion was used in the other to simulate breathing.

“Sensory therapy,” according to Dr. Carla Marie Manly, a clinical psychologist in California, “involves the use of visual and kinesthetic components to address mental health concerns such as stress, anxiety, and emotional dysregulation.”

“At a neurological level, anxiety is the outcome of the threat response being triggered,” she explained. “This stimulates the sympathetic nervous system, which releases adrenaline and cortisol to prepare the body for the ‘danger.'”

Manly continued, “Sensory therapy offers very grounding, straightforward procedures that stimulate the soothing sympathetic nervous system.” “While medication may be necessary in some cases, sensory therapy is a valuable alternative that allows an individual to engage in tailored tactics that effectively reduce anxiety.”

Putting music to use
According to one study
The study Trusted Source, which was published in PLOS One, looked at whether music and auditory rhythm stimulation could help people feel less anxious.

Sound waves are used to create combination tones or beats in various frequency ranges for auditory beat stimulation. This may cause changes in brain activity.

163 persons taking anti-anxiety drugs were enlisted to participate in a home therapy session that included listening to music, auditory rhythm stimulation, both, or “pink noise” (constant background sounds).

The physical symptoms of anxiety were reduced the most in participants with moderate anxiety who listened to both auditory beat stimulation and music, or only music.

Dr. Margaret Gail Distler, a psychiatrist at the University of California, Los Angeles’ Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior’s Anxiety Disorders Clinic, said the study’s findings aren’t surprising.

“The discovery that sound-based treatments reduced anxiety symptoms is consistent with prior findings,” said Distler to Healthline. “Music has been widely reported in the medical literature to promote relaxation and distract patients from unpleasant physical sensations, such as those undergoing surgical operations.” Music might also help to distract you from worrying thoughts and feelings.”

Nonetheless, it’s crucial to realise that the study didn’t look at the impact of music on anxiety disorders, according to Distler. Rather, it looked at how music affected the fleeting emotional state of anxiety.

“Listening to music may be a low-cost and easily available strategy to relieve tension in the moment.” “However, the current study looks at music as a treatment for state anxiety rather than anxiety disorders,” she explained. “I would be wary of associating this with a successful treatment for anxiety problems.” To determine if music-based interventions are effective treatments for anxiety disorders, more clinical trials with clinically distressed patients are needed.”

Anxiety can be relieved by using a pillow.
Researchers in the United Kingdom looked at how a huggable cushion that replicates breathing can help feelings of pre-test anxiety in another sensory treatment studyTrusted Source, which was also published in PLOS One.

The prototype and accompanying hardware for the pillow were produced by the researchers who wrote the article.

They recruited 129 people to participate in a group math test. Before the exam, some members of the group were given the pillow, while others were not. The huggable pillow acts as a breathing simulator.

Researchers discovered that those who utilised the cushion had less anxiety before the test than those who did not.

The pillow was also found to be just as helpful as guided meditation at reducing pre-test anxiety.

Hugging a breathable cushion, according to Manly, who is also the author of the book “Joy from Fear,” makes sense.

“A gentle hug has the ability to boost feel-good neurochemicals like oxytocin on a neurobiological level.” “As a result, you’ll feel relaxed and tranquil,” she stated. “Research also shows that breathing activities (such as those employed in yoga, mindfulness, and meditation) elicit the parasympathetic nervous system’s soothing effects.”

“It’s obvious that a huggable, ‘breathing pillow’ would promote a sense of peace and relaxation, and therefore reduce anxiety.” A cushion that mimics someone else’s breathing may undoubtedly induce a relaxing, co-regulation reaction.”

Both Manly and Distler point out that there are a variety of non-pharmaceutical approaches for managing anxiety symptoms.

“There are a variety of non-pharmaceutical, evidence-based treatments for anxiety disorders, including psychotherapies like CBT [cognitive behavioural therapy] and mindfulness-based approaches.” “These evidence-based treatments are quite successful and provide long-term symptom relief,” said Distler.



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