This paper published in July 2020 by Karen M Keptner, Carolyn Fitzgibbon and  Julie O’Sullivan supports the use of sensory integration approaches to reduce anxiety in college environments. Sensory modulation difficulties are increasingly assessed to inform intervention in mental health services.

Anxiety is one of the most commonly diagnosed mental health disorders on post-secondary campuses, often brought on by stressors unique to the college environment. Traditional psychological approaches to manage anxiety might focus on breathing techniques and progressive muscle relaxation. However, additional techniques that use specific sensory input to reduce anxiety have not received the same attention in the literature.

This longitudinal study compared four interventions for state anxiety (deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, an adapted dive reflex, and use of a weighted lap object) in a cohort of professional occupational therapy students.

This study found that all four interventions significantly reduced state anxiety. The sensory-based interventions of adapted dive reflex and weighted lap object appeared to have a longer duration of impact than the traditional interventions of deep breathing and PMR.

These results suggest that both traditional and sensory-based approaches may be effective in reducing anxiety before a testing situation.

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