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The Effects of Massage on Mental Illness
July 6, 2017

Mental health care is still on the rise. Unlike many other diseases, the cause of mental illness is less clear. As such, treatment plans for it are more difficult to develop. With more than a quarter of Americans suffering from a diagnosed mental illness each year, there is a huge push to find ways to better manage mental illness and its symptoms. Many people are discovering that massage is a good way to combat the physical causes of mental illness, from stress hormones to physical pain, and thus provide relief to their symptoms.

Massage Reduces Stress Hormones

Stress is one of the leading causes of anxiety. Anxiety is a common mental illness. It features an inability to release stress, among other debilitating symptoms. While anxiety has many environmental and biological causes, the feeling of anxiety is linked to the stress hormone cortisol.

Cortisol is great in a fight or flight situation, where you need a burst of stress to help you react to an emergency. Over time, cortisol released by anxiety builds up in the body and makes you feel less than great. A single 30 minute massage can lower cortisol levels by more than half. This huge drop in cortisol can ease the physical symptoms of anxiety, and break the feedback loop in your body. You were stressed, so you released cortisol, and then the cortisol in your body triggered stress, and then it’s just a spiral down. A massage breaks down cortisol and can break that cycle.

Massage as an Act of Self-Care

One of the tough things about mental illnesses is that they make it harder for you to do things that will help manage your mental illness. People with depression, for example, often benefit from regular exercise and socialization. However, one of the symptoms of depression is a lack of energy—which makes it difficult to go for a jog or make plans with a friend. Taking the first step towards breaking the cycle and easing symptoms is difficult. Massage is a great way to start. The energy output from the patient is minimal. Laying on a table is not particularly taxing. On the other hand, massage has a profound effect on mind and body alike. The return on investment is profound enough to be a great deal for anyone struggling to start self care.

Relief From Pain and Other Symptoms

Massage can also boost mental health by relieving symptoms of other illnesses or injuries. Chronic pain is strongly correlated with mental illness. Living in constant pain deteriorates quality of life. Stress and mental illness are easily triggered by such conditions. Massage can help relieve pain and inflammation, leading to greater mobility and a higher quality of life. Without chronic pain on their minds, many people find themselves less troubled by mental illness than they were before.

The effects of massage on mental illness are profound. Physically, massage can change the levels of stress hormones in your body. Mentally, it’s an act of self care that can help break you out of the mental illness spiral, where you don’t have enough energy to do the things that will give you more energy. Massage can also boost mental health by relieving symptoms that lower quality of life and increase stress.

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