Do Therapy Blankets Really Help With Anxiety?

photographed by Anna Jay.
It seems like as we get older, we're turning back to a lot of childhood comforts to help us self-soothe: colouring books, baby bottles, and even weighted blankets that might make us feel swaddled and safe.
There are a lot of claims out there about the benefits of the weighted blanket. It's supposed to reduce stress, improve sleep, and overall, give you the feeling of a warm hug when you're feeling nervous. It's meant to simulate deep pressure touch, a therapeutic method that supposedly calms your anxiety. But are weighted blankets really a magic panacea for all things anxiety?
Debra Kissen, PhD, a member of the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), says that it depends on the symptoms of anxiety you experience. For some people, being anxious involves feeling out of control of their own bodies, and for others, it might involve feeling extremely claustrophobic (though the symptoms aren't mutually exclusive).
"For some people, the feeling of being under a weighted blanket feels trapped and imprisoning and claustrophobic and anxiety-provoking," Dr. Kissen says.

For someone who feels out of control, [a weighted blanket is] a very grounding feeling.

Debra Kissen, PhD
But if your anxiety makes it so that you have a hard time feeling connected to your body or the world, weighted blankets can be a great way to feel more calm and supported.
"For someone who feels out of control, [a weighted blanket is] a very grounding feeling," Dr. Kissen says. "It’s hard to make contact with your body in certain moments because you’re feeling anxious, it’s not a moment when you’re in touch with your body. [Having a weighted blanket] is like being anchored instead of being at sea."
If sleeping with a weighted blanket isn't super comfortable for you, that's okay — it's not the only way to use one. Some people might find it calming even just to wrap themselves in one or put it on their laps when they're feeling anxious.
If you're unsure of whether or not a weighted blanket would be worth it for you (because they are an investment), Dr. Kissen suggests taking a pair of dumbbells and putting them on your ankles when you're sitting or lying down to see how you feel about it. If that test run has a calming effect on you, a weighted blanket might be worth it. If not, there are still other ways to deal with anxiety that might work better for you.
If you are experiencing anxiety and are in need of crisis support, please contact Samaritans on 116 123. All calls are free and will be answered in confidence.

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