A New Bodily Approach for Treating Anxiety and Depression

A New Bodily Approach for Treating Anxiety and Depression

The most common treatments for anxiety and depression are probably medications.

The most effective treatments for anxiety and depression are probably psychosocial ones (more specifically, cognitive behavioural approaches like CBT and/or acceptance based approaches like ACT).

But most of us know that exercise and walking and hiking make us feel better; they don’t just make managing depression and anxiety easier but they also boost happiness!

So why don’t we hear more about physical approaches to mental ill-health and/or to enhancing quality of life and positive emotions like happiness? Well, today you will …

via Psychology Today by Arash Emamzedah


  • Common treatments for anxiety and depression tend to focus on pharmacological and psychological interventions, not bodily ones.
  • Significant postural and motor differences exist between healthy people and those with anxiety or depression.
  • New research shows manipulating the motor system, like posture, gait, and movement may positively affect anxiety and mood symptoms.

Source: dima_goroziya/Pixabay

What comes to mind when you think of the posture or movements of a depressed person? Perhaps a slumped posture? Slow gait? A smaller motion range (e.g., of the hips and shoulders)?

Yet, treatments for mental illness usually focus on emotions and thoughts, not gross motor functioning (i.e., movement involving large muscles of the body), such as posture and movement.

It is time we pay more attention to the embodied view of mental illness. After all, emotions are bound and influenced by the body’s movements.

To shed more light on the connection between mental illness and motor movements and posture, I discuss a recent paper by Elkjaer and coauthors, published in the Journal of Affective Disorders.

Psychomotor Changes in Anxiety and Depression

According to DSM, various mental health issues–anxiety, depressionbipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), schizophrenia, alcohol withdrawal, and opioid intoxication–may be associated with motor changes, specifically with psychomotor retardation or psychomotor agitation.

Note: Psychomotor retardation refers to the slowing of bodily activities and speech. Psychomotor agitation, in contrast, refers to excessive, repetitive, and nonproductive movements, such as pacing or hand-wringing.

The research by Elkjaer et al. had two aims: To determine if there are gross motor differences between healthy individuals and those with anxiety or depression and to ascertain how changing motor displays affects the emotions and behaviors of people with anxiety or depression.

A total of 87 investigations were included in the authors’ synthesis. Of these, 82 (N = 58, 923 participants) compared motor differences in anxiety/depression with healthy individuals, whereas five studies evaluated motor changes in clinical samples.

And of the 82 investigations, 60 assessed depression and 22 anxiety, so most of the findings discussed below are particularly relevant to depression…

… keep reading the full & original article HERE