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Massage Therapy and Mental Health
Mental health issues have become a serious concern today. 1 in 4 Americans suffer from some form of mental illness, ranging from coping with mental stress, depression, anxiety, PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder)/ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), to eating disorders and substance abuse.
Such disorders have affected people from all walks of life, no matter what their age, ethnicity, economic status or even gender.
The Impact of Mental Health Issues on Daily Life
Mental health problems can affect every single area of a person’s life.
At one time, it was considered that mental health and physical health were two unrelated issues. However, more and more studies in recent times have shown how mental health directly impacts physical health.
It has been found that people with self-related distress issues were 32% more prone to cancer, while those with depression were more prone to coronary heart disease. People suffering from schizophrenia were twice as likely to develop heart disease, and three times more like to have respiratory disease.
Social and Familial Interactions
A mental illness doesn’t impact just the patient. It also impacts their entire family and social circle. When dealing with a personal suffering from mental health issues, those taking care of that person also suffer.
A Swedish study revealed that family members of a mentally ill person also began to develop social as well as psychological problems due to the extreme stress they were under.
The children of the mentally ill are the ones that suffer the most, since they feel isolated, lonely and different from other children. This creates a vicious cycle, where they could end up developing behavioral, psychological and social issues of their own.
Impact on Work
People suffering from mental health issues also struggle to keep their jobs. The symptoms of the illness, or even the side effects of the medications can make it a huge effort for the patient to work normally and more effectively.
Once you are diagnosed with a mental illness, you tend to be stigmatized by society. Mental illnesses are still not clearly understood and there is a huge lack of understanding about these issues. Unfortunately, this lack of awareness causes people to pull away from a mentally ill person, making it even more traumatic for him or her.
How Can Massage Therapy Help?
According to recent research, it has been found that massage therapy can positively impact mental illnesses. In fact, this form of therapy is becoming more recognized as a way of helping in the management of mental health issues – in combination with other treatments such as medication and psychotherapy.
Reduction in Depression and Anxiety
Depression and anxiety are two of the most common mental health issues today. Research studies conducted at E-Da Hospital and College of Medicine in Taiwan showed that massage therapy led to a significant reduction in symptoms for both depression as well as anxiety.
Reduction in Stress
When a person undergoes massage therapy, neurotransmitters in his or her body are activated, which decrease stress hormone – cortisol – levels. Cortisol levels are increased in times of stress, as seen in people suffering from anxiety, PTSD, eating disorders and so on.
The reduction of these hormone in the body leads to the person feeling more relaxed and being able to think more clearly.
Specific massage strokes increase blood flow in the body, which in turn increase the production of dopamine, also known as the happy hormone, and serotonin, the calming hormone. When the levels of these positive hormones go up, a person feels more calm, peaceful and able to focus.
Improvement in Sleep Quality
One of the biggest problems that people with mental illnesses face is an inability to sleep. Because of this, many patients turn to alcohol or drugs to try and get some sleep. However, the quality of this sleep is poor, leading to more stress, which leads to even more substance abuse, turning the entire process into a vicious cycle that is hard to break.
Massage therapy increases blood circulation, reduces tension in the muscles, lowers the heart and respiration rate, leading to a better quality of sleep. And restful sleep is one of the biggest healers to our bodies.
Eases Symptoms of PTSD
According to a study published in the Military Medicine journal, veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan who were given massage therapy showed reduced symptoms of PTSD.
The veterans were able to come out of their hyper activated survival modes, were able to sleep better and were more relaxed.
These are just some of the benefits of massage therapy. Another study conducted showed that those who regularly received massage therapy were more emotionally and mentally balanced. A human touch literally can improve mental, physical as well as emotional health.