You may have heard that whole-body cryotherapy is great for weight loss, pain management and overall physical health, but it turns out that this treatment could even help those who struggle with depression and anxiety.
While depression and anxiety are not the same, and everyone experiences them differently, it is important to note that they often occur together and can be difficult to break free from. There are many ways doctors and therapists may recommend to help treat both conditions, and whole-body cryotherapy is quickly becoming another possible route for alleviating the symptoms of both anxiety and depression.
What is Whole-Body Cryotherapy?
Whole-body cryotherapy is a more modern version of the traditional ice baths that are often prescribed for inflammation and joint pain. The treatment is designed to expose your body to extremely low temperatures, usually around negative 200 degrees Fahrenheit, in order to help you experience a wide range of benefits, both physical and mental.
Not every treatment center offers the exact same whole-body cryotherapy experience, but there are a few basic things that everyone can expect when going in for their first session. Most centers have a single-person cryosauna, which is similar to a standing tanning booth. Hands, feet and sensitive places such as genitalia and ears are covered during the session, and your head and neck are outside of the machine during treatment to maximize comfort.
Other places have larger cryotherapy chambers that essentially look like small, walk-in freezers. Participants are fully exposed to the cold but wear protective clothing on their feet, hands, genitals and head, and most centers will also require you wear a respiratory mask for added comfort.
Each treatment typically only lasts a few minutes, but the benefits are pronounced and last much longer than the few minutes it takes to complete a treatment session.
How Whole-Body Cryotherapy Can Help Your Mental Health
The basic idea behind the impact of this procedure on your mental health is that when your body is exposed to negative 200 degree temperatures, it floods your brain with endorphins, leaving you with an improved mood.
In addition to the release of endorphins, the cold shock also pulls blood from your extremities and back into your core to protect all of your vital organs. A side effect of this is that the blood becomes oxygenated and packed with beneficial nutrients and enzymes that it would not have gotten otherwise.
When your body warms back up after the treatment, that enriched blood flows back through your body and boosts your overall feelings of health and wellness. Some people report that just one three-minute session has left them feeling euphoric for over eight hours.
While one single session of whole-body cryotherapy will not “cure” your depression or anxiety, it can be an incredibly useful tool for managing symptoms, especially since it offers so many other physical benefits as well.
Because whole-body cryotherapy is also able to reduce inflammation, boost your metabolism, and help mitigate pain, it can be an even more effective treatment since many people who suffer from depression or anxiety also tend to deal with physical ailments like these.