Can Surf Therapy Really Help Combat Mental Disorders?

Surfing is a sport with physical and mental benefits. Source:Free-Photos There are all sorts of physical activities which are known to have a positive impact on people who are suffering from common mental disorders, such as anxiety or stress. When it comes to the more serious conditions, like post traumatic stress disorder – or PTSD – more tailored approaches often need to be worked out to assist people with their recoveries. One such approach that is gathering more and more interest is surfing. So-called surf therapy has been the subject of scientific research programmes on both sides of the Atlantic and medical professionals are now hoping that it can be turned into a programme that will assist all sorts of patients with a wide range of conditions. Of course, recreational surfers have been reporting just what a natural high they get from the waves for years. The joy of riding a wave for the first time is like that of a win at the casino is a sentiment that many would agree with. Can surf therapy really help in the fight for better mental health?

Psychological Benefits

According to the International Surf Therapy Organization (ITSO), the psychological improvements that people with mental health problems can make are varied and often astounding. The group, which will hold its third annual conference in 2019, is committed to better understanding how surfing can help people with mental health disorders as well raising awareness of its potential as a treatment. Their work showcases a number of benefits including psychological boosts which have been felt by even very young children, such as those who might be suffering from mental conditions like autism. Not only has surfing been shown to help with communication and sociability, but it has led to greater confidence in some cases, too. Can surfing combat stress? Source:Cpl. Megan L. Stiner Other case studies indicate that people with attention deficit hyperactivity disorders, or ADHD, have been able to better control their condition. Some people report that surfing for therapeutic reasons simply gives them an alternative focus which can help to relieve the symptoms of stress and even reduce levels of anxiety and depression. More recently, surf therapy has been tried with people who have been diagnosed with PTSD. Without the use of medicines, surf therapy has been shown to help reduce the frequency of the bouts of panic and stress that are commonly associated with this sort of mental health condition.

The Research Behind Surf Therapy

Of course, it is not just case studies that should be looked into before deciding whether any one activity has a genuine therapeutic effect or not. That is why researchers have put together studies which have now started to try and hone in on exactly why surfing appears to be so good at helping to combat poor mental health when compared to alternatives, such as pharmaceutical or talking therapies, for example. One such study has focussed on the physical aspects of surfing insofar as it works nearly all of the muscles in the body which may help to release natural endorphins more readily into the brain. Others have centred their work on the sense of awe that people often report they feel when they are out in the ocean, trying to master the techniques it takes to ride a big wave. Whatever the reason for the success of surf therapy, it certainly seems to work!


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