Mental illnesses are very common. Nearly one in ten U.S. adults experienced a mood disorder such as depression, bipolar disorder, or seasonal affective disorder in the past year. Nearly two in ten experienced an anxiety disorder in the last year, which can also affect mood. If you’re living with a mood or anxiety disorder, you may be interested in complementary therapies that could help you feel better.
This article explains how cold therapy has been shown to help manage mental illnesses and offers tips for adding this complementary therapy to your routine.
Common Mood and Anxiety Disorders
Mood disorder is a broad term that’s used to describe a variety of depression and bipolar disorders. Anxiety disorders may occur alongside mood disorders and can also have an effect on your mood. The following are some common mood and anxiety disorders with promising research and outcomes when cold therapy is a complementary therapy:
- Major Depressive Disorder. Also called clinical depression, this mood disorder is characterized by persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness. These symptoms are generally severe enough to interfere with school, work, and other day-to-day activities.
- Persistent Depressive Disorder. This type of depression is less severe than major depressive disorder, but it’s chronic. People with this disorder experience mild-to-moderate depression for two years or more.
- Bipolar Disorder. Bipolar disorder is characterized by extreme shifts in mood. People with this condition may swing between extreme lows (depression) and extreme highs (mania or hypomania).
- Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). This type of depression is triggered by a change of season. People with SAD may feel depressed during the fall and winter months but feel better when spring arrives.
- Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMD).PMD is a more serious version of premenstrual syndrome (PMS). Women with this condition may experience severe irritability, depression, anger, and/or mood swings before their period starts.
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder. This disorder is characterized by persistent, disproportionate worrying that interferes with day-to-day activities. It may also contribute to physical health conditions, such as headaches and digestive problems.
- Social Anxiety Disorder. People with this type of anxiety disorder may face significant anxiety and self-consciousness in social situations. This can interfere with your day-to-day life.
How Cold Therapy Can Improve Mood Disorders
Researchers have studied how to treat mood disorders and other mental illnesses with cold exposure. There are several proven benefits of cold therapy for these mental health conditions.
Improve General Mood
Cold water immersion can significantly improve your mood, according to a study published in Lifestyle Medicine. In that study, volunteers were immersed in 13.6°C (54.6°F) seawater for up to 20 minutes before completing a mood questionnaire. Compared to a control group, they experienced significant increases in vigor and significant reductions in tension, anger, depression, fatigue, and confusion.
Reduce Depression Levels
Cold therapy may be a helpful complementary therapy for depression, according to research published in the Polish journal Archivum Immunologiae et Therapiae Experimentalis. A group of volunteers who were receiving standard psychopharmacotherapy for depression took part in daily two to three-minute cold therapy sessions. After three weeks, 34.6% of the volunteers experienced a significant(50% or more) reduction in their depression scores.
Reduce Anxiety Levels
The study mentioned above also looked at cold therapy as a complementary therapy for anxiety. After three weeks of daily cold therapy sessions, 46.2% of the volunteers saw their anxiety scores decrease by at least 50%. A reduction in anxiety levels could be welcome for anyone who experiences generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, or another type of anxiety disorder.
Improved Sleep Quality
People with mental illnesses who are treated with cold therapy enjoy reductions in tiredness and improved sleep quality, according to a systemic review published in Complementary Therapies in Medicine. This can help provide relief for people who are experiencing sleeping difficulties as a result of their mental illness. Plus, the improvement in sleep quality that comes from cold therapy may reduce anxiety and enhance mood.
Ways to Add Cold Therapy to Your Mental Health Routine
If you’re interested in using cold therapy as a complementary mental health treatment, there are many ways to add it to your daily routine. Be sure to talk to your doctor or therapist and we recommend against stopping medications without doctor approval. Some options to consider include:
- Trying a new shower routine. Cold showers are an easy way to try cold therapy. A cold shower has water temperatures below 21°C (70°F). If you want to ease into the cold therapy experience, try switching between cold and hot water during your shower.
- Soaking in an ice bath. Level up your cold showers with a refreshing plunge in an Ice Barrel. With water temperatures around 10 to 15°C (50 to 59°F), the optimum soaking time is around five to ten minutes.
- Swimming in cold water. Cold water swimming can help you enjoy the mood-improving benefits of exercise and cold therapy at the same time.
Take a Cold Plunge for Mental Health Benefits
Scientific research shows that cold therapy can be a great addition to a mental health routine, and IceBarrel makes it easy to take a cold plunge in the comfort of your own home. Talk to your healthcare provider to find out if this complementary mental health therapy is right for you.