Feeling anxious and sad is part of being human, without these emotions we wouldn’t get to experience peace or joy. Anxiety disorders and clinical or seasonal depression aren’t just feelings, they are elongated physical and mental responses to a chemical imbalance in the body and brain.
Anxiety can manifest in different ways for different people but it has one common factor: an excess amount of the stress-induced hormone, cortisol. You’ve heard of the “fight-or-flight” response? That is our sympathetic nervous system in action; it senses a danger or threat and pumps up our cortisol levels to provide energy needed to stay and fight or to run away. A person with anxiety could experience this multiple times a day to a danger that a person without anxiety might not perceive as dangerous. Symptoms include, but are not limited to:
- Lack of concentration
- Muscle tension
- Heart pounding
- Shortness of breath
Depression is associated with a high level of cortisol as well as low levels of neurotransmitters named serotonin and dopamine. Neurotransmitters are chemical messengers that regulate countless functions and processes in our body, from sleep to metabolism. Serotonin is responsible for regulating mood, storing memory, quality of sleep, and mental cognition. Dopamine is known as the “feel good” neurotransmitter, we associate this with feelings of euphoria, pleasure, motivation, and reward. A chemical imbalance such as this in the brain can cause symptoms that affect daily life:
- Lack of concentration
- Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies or activities
- Feelings of sadness, guilt, worthlessness, hopelessness
- Thoughts of death or suicide
- Moving or talking more slowly
Anxiety and depression are very common among people in the U.S, studies show that there are more than 3 million cases per year, spanning across various demographics. The two mental illnesses share many of the same symptoms and a person can often be diagnosed with both. The most common treatment of anxiety and depression in the U.S is a combination of talk-therapy and anti-anxiety and/or anti-depressant medication. In recent years, more studies are being done to show the positive effects that regular massage therapy can have on a person with anxiety and depression.
Massage Therapy activates the parasympathetic nervous system, the “rest-and-digest” counterpart to the “fight-or-flight” sympathetic nervous system. A study from the Mayo Clinic concluded that a 60 minute massage decreases cortisol levels by an average of 30% and increases serotonin levels by an average 28%, virtually replacing this stress hormone with neurotransmitters that regulate mood and improve sleep! Massage Therapy is a safe, natural, and effective method to supplement treatment of anxiety disorders and depression. Call us to schedule your next massage today! (757) 427-0355