How Weighted Blankets Are Helping People With Anxiety

prize-winning-quilt-958630_1280Anxiety affects over 40 million adults in the US; about 18% of the total population over the age of 18. These conditions sometimes include symptoms of depression, panic, and inexplicable phobias induced by stress and are associated with eating disorders, bipolar disorder and a number of other psychological illnesses. According to the AADA, in the US, only about 1/3 of all people who suffer from anxiety get treatment.

In response to these statistics, one California man created a simple product that has been proven to alleviate some of the symptoms of anxiety in both children and adults, without the need for expensive medication or therapy.

In 2014, Keith Zivalich was inspired when his daughter placed a beanie baby snake on his shoulders.  The soothing weight of the synthetic pellets across his shoulders sparked an idea to distribute that weight over a person’s entire body.  Zivalich created the weighted blanket, which incorporates small pellets that are sewn into individual compartments in order to distribute weight evenly, and pushes down on some important pressure points.

“That extra pressure on the body is helpful for kids of all kinds, but particularly for kids with autism and sensory processing disorder”, he states.

What Zivalich is referencing is called Deep Pressure Touch Stimulation, which is a type of therapy that’s similar to getting a massage. According to Temple Grandin, Ph.D., deep pressure is “the type of surface pressure that is exerted in most types of firm touching, holding, stroking, petting of animals, or swaddling.”  She states that a light touch is more stimulating and activates the nervous system, whereas a firmer touch can be far more relaxing.

Occupational therapists have used these sorts of methods to alleviate symptoms of anxiety, stress or sensory disorders that often occur in children with autism. They are ideal for psychiatric care because they act like a “warm hug” by applying weight to give a child the feeling of safety and comfort.  Autistic children will often seek out deep pressure sensations, frequently covering themselves in multiple layers of blankets even in warm weather. This need for deep pressure touch stimulation has sparked similar products such as a weighted vest, shoulder packs and pillows. Autism Speaks has a multitude of weighted materials to offer, including weighted blankets, that feature deep pressure touch stimulation “technology”.

Weighted blankets come in a variety of price ranges, some as little as $40 and other, larger ones can cost you over $100. You can find a pretty thorough, condensed list here.

Or, to be extra cost-efficient, you could create your own! There are multiple different ways to create weighted blankets, such as through this video by Man Sewing. Whichever method you choose, weighted blankets are a wonderful investment.

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