Deep Pressure Touch Stimulation Therapy (DPTST) is certainly a mouthful to say, but thankfully is much simpler to understand.
DPTST involves firm, gentle, and consistent pressure on the body, which can be done through squeezing, hugging, holding, or wrapping. While a simple hug from a loved one can help, to be done most effectively, DPTST is best applied by a trained professional (ie. occupational therapist) with special tools, including:
You see, when we are feeling stressed or anxious, there is a cascade of effects going on inside our bodies. Some of which include:
You have your nervous system to thank for these responses. One branch of the nervous system to be specific – the ‘sympathetic nervous system’.
Have you ever felt that rush of tension flooding through your body after an extremely stressful moment? A near accident for instance? This is your sympathetic nervous system hard at work. That “rush” you are feeling is your brain flooding your body with stress hormone called cortisol, as well as adrenaline – the hormone responsible for spikes in energy. This triggers a ‘fight-or-flight response’ in the body, which causes the effects listed above to occur.
Thankfully, there is another branch of the nervous system that helps counteract these ‘fight-or-flight responses’, and it’s called the ‘parasympathetic nervous system’. The parasympathetic system has the complete opposite effect on the body compared to the sympathetic system, returning the body to a state of relaxation. Now normally, these two systems work together to regulate the body. Unfortunately, things like anxiety can create an imbalance, with the parasympathetic (ie. fight-or-flight response) more active than the sympathetic (ie. relaxation).
DPTST helps regain this balance, by releasing our “feel good” hormones (also known as neurotransmitters) – serotonin and dopamine. These hormones work against the stress hormones, slowing down the heart rate, improving breathing, and promoting relaxation.
Squeeze and hug machines can be found at certain hospitals and occupational therapists’ offices. For more convenient and portable options, weighted vests or blankets might be a good place to start! As always, consult with a doctor before recommending any new treatment option.