Massage and Depression: Not a cure, but a help.
Depression is a common psychological/mood disorder that causes people to experience lowered mood, irritability, loss of interest and pleasure, feelings of guilt or low self-worth, feeling empty or sad, disturbed sleep and/or appetite and poor concentration. The person suffering from depression may also experience intense feelings of anxiety, hopelessness and helplessness which can lead to despair and thoughts of suicide.
There is no one cause of depression and current research suggests that a combination of genetic, biological, environmental and psycho-social factors contribute to its occurrence. One in four people will experience depression at some point in their lives and by 2020, The World Health Organization (WHO) predicts that major depression will be second only to heart disease as the leading cause of disability worldwide. It is important therefore to look after our mental health as much as we attend to our physical health needs.
Presently pharmacological interventions (antidepressants/anxiolytics/sleeping tablets, etc) and “Talking therapies” (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy/Solution Focused Therapy/Counselling etc) are the most common treatment approaches, whilst complementary therapies (aromatherapy/reflexology/acupuncture etc) are being utilized as an adjunctive treatment approach.
It is here that massage can play a significant role in assisting with positive change in mood and help to facilitate recovery. Massage may also play a major role in sustaining good mental health following recovery by becoming a central part of an individual’s relapse prevention strategy.
So how does massage help with depression?
Massage has been used as a therapeutic intervention for physical and psychological ill-health in China for over 2,500 years. It is important to make clear that massage is not “a silver bullet” for depression, however it is equally important to highlight that massage helps with the release of important neurotransmitters- serotonin, dopamine and endorphins- which are greatly reduced in depression.
These neurotransmitters are our “feel-good” hormones and they do exactly what it says on the tin- by facilitating and promoting feelings of positivity and psychological equilibrium, they help us feel good.
Massage has been proven to lower the stress hormone Cortisol ( a naturally occurring hormone produced when exposed to acute and chronic stresses), as therapeutic massage helps release muscular and psychological tension and promotes relaxation. Up to a 40% reduction in Cortisol levels have been identified immediately post massage.
Therapeutic massage allows the recipient to take a break from the worries and anxieties they are overwhelmed with. The connection made between therapist and recipient allows the individual to challenge the negative beliefs they may have around their own self-worth. The process itself allows the individual to trust the therapist, which may help the individual in becoming more open to allowing other help to occur.
Whilst seemingly a passive participant in the massage process, the recipient may begin to acknowledge that by allowing the massage to occur, they are actively doing something to change the way they feel, and this can be extremely empowering in its own right. The therapeutic massage itself may relieve some of the muscular pain, caused by the physical manifestation of the psychological distress the individual is enduring. Finally, the relaxation and tension release may assist with sleep, which is often disturbed in depression.
Depression is a serious mental illness with disabling consequences for the sufferer and their loved ones. Whilst massage does not claim to be the panacea physicians and sufferers are
looking for, it does have a significant role to play in relieving some of the symptoms of
depression and improving a person’s quality of life as they proceed on their journey to recovery.
I hope you have found this post interesting and helpful,
please feel free to leave a comment.
Let’s get massaging!