A Novel Remedy: Using Weighted Blankets for Adults with PTSD

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health disorder that develops after witnessing or experiencing a life-threatening event. The effects of events such as military combat, sexual assault, and hospital stays can be felt even years of the incident.

PTSD causes people to relive the traumatizing event daily. Many fall into depression and struggle with insomnia.

Within recent years, PTSD began to reach a near-epidemic level. According to medical professionals:

  • Approximately 1 in every 5 service members who return from the Middle East develop PTSD.
  • Due to constant misdiagnoses, PTSD medical expenses are estimated to be over $42 billion each year.
  • Over 70% of American adults have experienced some sort of traumatic event at least once in their lives. That’s more than 220 million people.
  • Of these individuals, an estimated 20% struggle with PTSD. That accounts for more than 31 million people.
  • Almost half of all outpatient mental health situations involve a PTSD diagnosis.
  • PTSD patients tend to struggle with severe anxiety, depression, restlessness, and insomnia.

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), PTSD symptoms can arise one month to several years after the incident. Those with PTSD often have nightmares and flashbacks. They may feel numb or avoid places and people that remind them of the event. These combined effects cause those with PTSD to be easily startled and irritated. They often have difficulty concentrating and falling asleep.

In addition to psychotherapy or medication, many have found relief from weighted blankets.

Why Use a Weighted Blanket?

For years, occupational therapists have been using weighted blankets as a calming therapeutic tool. The added weight of the blanket evenly distributes weight across your body. This Deep Pressure Therapy (DPT) puts pressure on sensory receptors and calms the nervous system.

For those diagnosed with PTSD, their nervous system is constantly in “fight or flight” mode. Deep Pressure Therapy eases this neurological response by decreasing blood pressure, heart rate, and breathing. Other effects of weighted blankets include:

  • Increased serotonin production. This hormone is also known as the body’s “happy hormone.” It is responsible for feelings of well-being, bliss, and contentment.
  • Increased melatonin production. This hormone is the body’s natural “sleep aid.” It tells your body when to go to sleep and is crucial for REM sleep.
  • A decrease in cortisol, the body’s “stress hormone.” This helps ease mood swings, anxiety attacks, and unwanted thoughts.

When to Use a Weighted Blanket

You don’t have to wait until bedtime to use a weighted blanket. Whenever PTSD symptoms begin to spike, drape the weighted blanket over your back or lap. Almost immediately, the effects of the weighted blanket can be felt. This natural therapeutic tool is a great supplement to psychotherapy or medication.

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