Have you tried waking up on a freezing morning under the warmth of your thick, heavy blanket and felt an overwhelming sense of calmness? If yes, you have just experienced what deep pressure touch (DPT) can do for you.
You may now have a lot of questions about what deep pressure touch is. Can DPT help decrease anxiety and stress? Is it safe? How can you experience it?
Well, here is a quick guide to help you understand more about the safety and therapeutic effects of DPT.
What is DEEP PRESSURE TOUCH?
Deep pressure touch (DPT) stimulation is a form of therapy where gentle pressure is applied to the body. It includes physical human contact like hugging and holding hands or by specific products like a weighted blanket. DPT is ideal at night during bedtime or when a person’s stress level is high.
How does the body perceives and reacts to stimuli?
To easily understand how deep pressure touch works, it is essential to know how the body processes information and how it responds to a stimulus.
The central nervous system of the body processes information through sensory integration. The body perceives information through 8 senses:
- Visual – sight (eyes)
- Olfactory – smell (nose)
- Auditory – hearing (ears)
- Gustatory – taste (tongue)
- Tactile – touch (skin)
- Vestibular – the sense of balance
- Interoception – sensors for internal sensations
- Proprioceptive – the sense of positioning through the muscles and joints
Some people have conditions that make it difficult for them to process sensory stimuli. Their body’s responses are different than normal. Responses include changes in movement, speech, or emotions.
When stress is involved, the body shifts from “fight or flight” to a “rest and digest” mode. It is actually the change from the sympathetic to the parasympathetic nervous system.
The sympathetic nervous system (SNS) is the primary response center of the body. It makes you run fast when facing danger. The SNS works to help handle stress. If the SNS works longer than usual, the anxiety and irritability kick in. You will have trouble sleeping. Digestion problems may also happen.
Children with sensory problems like autism spectrum disorder have their SNS continualy running. Even at calm moments, a tiny trigger could elicit a negative response.
On the other hand, the parasympathetic nervous system (PSNS) permits the body to rest and be calm. When the PSNS is at work, your heart rate becomes normal, your breathing slows, and muscles relax. Endorphins, known as the happy hormones, comes from the PSNS.
How does DPT work?
Deep pressure touch works in tandem with the parasympathetic nervous system of the body. It calms and improves the sense of well-being of a person, especially a child. Through DPT, dopamine and serotonin are released. These two are neurotransmitters that are essential in controlling a person’s mood, sleep, and impulse control.
What are the therapeutic effects of DPT?
The deep pressure touch has several therapeutic effects. They include:
- Decreased stress and anxiety
- Increased sense of happiness and well-being
- General calmness
- Improved socialization skills
- Better rest and sleep
- Improved memory and focus
- Decreased seizure episodes
- Decreased tactile hypersensitivity
- Improvement of joining group activities
- Reduced the risk of self-harm
Substantially, people who have undergone DPT feels that they have steadier emotions after the therapy. For those with tactile hypersensitivity, consistent DPT therapy sessions helped them desensitize over time.
Who needs DPT?
Both adults and children recognize that deep pressure touch therapy helps in controlling their stress and anxiety. People who most likely will benefit from DPT are those with conditions like:
- Anxiety Disorders
- Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- Mood Disorders
- Sensory Processing Disorder
- Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
- Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)
Many people enjoy the therapeutic effects of DPT, even without medical conditions. This is shown with the rise in weighted blankets sales. They are a popular choice for those who want to have a good sleep need a relaxed, calm feeling.
Recommended read: Gentle touch can decrease stress.
The Deep Pressure Touch Therapy
Deep pressure touch stimulation uses various techniques and specialized products. Touch therapy techniques involve putting gentle pressure through physical human contact. Some of the well-known techniques are:
- Deep pressure massage
Deep pressure massage, also known as hand hugs, uses the palm to put pressure on the body. It works by massaging the hands and feet going toward the trunk. For children, a fun way to apply deep pressure massage is through pressing a pillow gently over the child’s body. This may be through a game or while watching television.
- Joint compression
Joint compression is putting pressure on the joints through pushing or weight-bearing. It is a form of calming exercise to decrease stress. It is a common therapy technique for anxious children.
Fortunately, different products are now available in the market to aid in deep pressure touch therapy. DPT products are specifically-designed products made to apply gentle pressure to the body. Product options include:
- Weighted blankets
- Weighted vests
- Lap weights
- Compression “hug” pods
- Neck wraps
- Compression clothing
- Squeeze and hug machine
A squeeze and hug machine is accessible at hospitals or specialty clinics. It is good to promote peace and calmness to anxious people, but it is quite expensive.
A great option is the use of weighted blankets. Weighted blankets put gentle pressure on the body through balanced weight distribution. It often comes at an affordable price and can be bought online or at your local stores. Different options, such as weighted blankets for couple and blankets for kids, are now available.
Is DPT safe?
Deep pressure touch is generally safe if done within its safety guidelines. For example, before doing a massage, proper consent should first be secured. Moreover, weighted products like blankets and lap pads should have the right specifications based on the user’s body weight and condition.
Like any other therapeutic techniques, deep pressure touch stimulation produces different results to each individual. It is still, however, worth a try as it aims to improve one’s sense of happiness and well-being.