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Research Articles

Whole Body Cryotherapy for Depression & Anxiety

Whole-body cryotherapy as adjunct treatment of depressive and anxiety disorders

Joanna Rymaszewska, David Ramsey and Sylwia Chładzińska−Kiejna

Department of Psychiatry, Wroc³aw Medical University, Wroc³aw, Poland


Introduction: Rheumatism has been treated using whole-body cryotherapy (WBCT) since the 1970s. The aim of this study was to assess the efficacy of WBCT as an experimental, adjunctive method of treating depressive and anxiety disorders.

Materials and Methods: A control (n=34) and a study group (n=26), both consisting of outpatients 18–65 years old with depressive and anxiety disorders (ICD-10), received standard psychopharmacotherapy. The study group was additionally treated with a series of 15 daily visits to a cryogenic chamber (2–3 min, from –160°C to –110°C). The Hamilton’s depression rating scale (HDRS) and Hamilton’s anxiety rating scale (HARS) were used as the outcome measures.

Results: After three weeks, a decrease of at least 50% from the baseline HDRS-17 scores in 34.6% of the study group and 2.9% of the control group and a decrease of at least 50% from the baseline HARS score in 46.2% of the study group and in none of the control group were noted.

Conclusions: These findings, despite such limitations as a small sample size, suggest a possible role for WBCT as a short-term adjuvant treatment for mood and anxiety disorders.

Key words: depression, anxiety, adjuvant therapy, experimental treatment method, whole-body cryotherapy.

Abbreviations: WBCT – whole-body cryotherapy, HDRS-17 – Hamilton’s depression rating scale, HARS – Hamilton’s anxiety rating scale, ICD-10 – international statistical classification of diseases and health related problems, tenth revision.

Corresponding author: Joanna Rymaszewska, Ph.D. M.D., Research Unit of Consultation Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine, Department of Psychiatry, Wroc³aw Medical University, Pasteura 10, 50-367 Wroclaw, Poland, tel.: +48 71 784- 16-00, e-mail:

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