Researchers tested flotation therapy in girls and women with anorexia nervosa. The results showed a significant improvement in their mental state. Discover the very encouraging results of this study.
An innovative method in the face of anorexia
Anorexia nervosa is a disease characterized by intentional weight loss. It is part of eating disorders with bulimia and binge eating disorder. People suffering from anorexia nervosa have the feeling of being always overweight and seek to lose weight by all means (calorie hunts, intense practice of physical activity, avoidance of meals, etc.). In 90% of cases, anorexia nervosa affects girls and women.
Treatment today is based on psychotherapy and nutritional rehabilitation. Recently, researchers tested a new therapy: flotation therapy. It consists of letting yourself be carried away by lukewarm water loaded with Epsom salt in an airtight container. A method that promotes relaxation by allowing the person to be isolated from noise, light and humidity.
A disorder that is difficult to manage today
For the purposes of the study, researchers from the Oxley College of Health Sciences at the University of Tulsa (USA) recruited 68 girls and women hospitalized with anorexia nervosa to participate in flotation therapy sessions. The cohort was divided into two groups.
- The first group received eight 60-minute flotation therapy sessions over four weeks.
- The second group received standard treatments for the same duration.
Researchers asked participants to rate their body dissatisfaction and anxiety before and after therapy. According to psychiatrist Sahib Khalsa, lead author of the study: “anxiety is a common co-occurrence of anorexia nervosa which does not respond well to standard anti-anxiety medications such as benzodiazepines“.
An action on anxiety and self-image
Analysis of their responses showed that those who benefited from the flotation therapy sessions reported an immediate reduction in their feeling of body dissatisfaction and a drop in their anxiety. This was not the case for the girls and women in the control group, for whom the symptoms of the disease remained unchanged after one month of standard treatments.
“The significant reductions in induced anxiety suggest that this tool presents a powerful opportunity to treat anxiety by non-pharmacological means in anorexia nervosa. Further research is needed to examine the anxiolytic effects of this therapy in other eating disorders.“says Prof. Sahib Khalsa.
“These findings also pave the way for new forms of treatment for eating disorders that, in conjunction with traditional treatments, could help alleviate diagnostic features of AN that are more difficult to treat, such as body image.“, commented Emily Choquette, clinical psychologist and co-author of the study. “The reliable and sustained effect of this method on body image dissatisfaction suggests that it could be studied as a tool capable of increasing the effectiveness of traditional psychotherapies..
Flotation therapy: immediate and lasting effects
Even better, participants who did the flotation therapy reported that these improvements in their mental state persisted after treatment, up to six months after the therapy ended. “There were no adverse events related to the intervention during the study“, conclude the researchers.