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What Is Biofeedback Therapy?
Biofeedback therapy is a form of treatment that involves teaching the patient how to control various physical processes within the body, including those that are traditionally considered automatic and thus outside the scope of conscious manipulation. Biofeedback therapy may not just be a way to treat drug and alcohol abuse, but also a way of gaining mastery over one’s physiology and building a stronger mind-body connection.
Patients may learn to gain control of their respiration, their pulse, their perspiration, their neural oscillations, their bowels, their blood sugar, and more through the use of biofeedback. This sample scenario may be useful in illuminating the process of biofeedback therapy. A patient presents for treatment with the desire to control their body temperature through biofeedback therapy. The practitioner may begin by affixing sensors that measure body temperature to the patient’s body. The data from the sensors would be visible to the patient, meaning that they are aware of when their body temperature increases or decreases. At first the fluctuations in temperature may seem random, but after a while the patient may begin to learn how to raise or lower their body temperature at will based on the feedback they’ve received. Patients can in this manner “get the hang of” a wide range of bodily functions, potentially aiding in treatment of a variety of conditions.
What Equipment Is Used In Biofeedback Therapy?
Biofeedback therapy involves the use of sensors and trackers similar to an electroencephalograph, or EEG, which measures neural oscillations (also called brain waves). One’s heart rate may be tracked through the use of an electrocardiograph, or ECG. Devices that measure changes in the skin or in the muscle, like the electrodermograph (EDG) or electromyograph (EMG), could also be employed. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has signed off on Resperate, a device that aids with relaxation and healthy breathing patterns, which could be used for biofeedback therapy. It’s important to note, however, that many unapproved or untested products may be available on the consumer market.
What Can Biofeedback Therapy Treat?
There are still many studies yet to be conducted about the efficacy of biofeedback therapy. However, there’s ample anecdotal evidence to suggest that biofeedback therapy could be effective in the treatment of:
- Substance use disorder
Does It Work?
Biofeedback therapy can be used in many different ways to treat a variety of illnesses. Results could differ across patients and across diagnoses, but some of the research on a few key conditions that biofeedback therapy can treat is summarized below.
- Anxiety. An examination of the effect of biofeedback therapy on anxiety levels in nursing students found that “biofeedback significantly reduced anxiety” among those studied.
- Alcoholism. One study, which examined sobriety in veterans recovering from alcoholism, found that subjects who received at least 6 sessions of biofeedback therapy were able to maintain their sobriety at a rate higher than those who received fewer sessions.
- Cannabis dependency. A case study involving a 17-year-old struggling with cannabis dependency found that not only was the subject able to abstain from use during treatment, but that he also reported feeling “calmer” and “more confident.” The subject also saw his academic performance improve substantially, and had successfully maintained his sobriety even a year after discontinuing treatment.
- Heroin dependency. Biofeedback therapy was seen to be effective in reducing cravings in individuals struggling with heroin dependency when combined with cue-exposure therapy.
- Insomnia. Research into the efficacy of biofeedback therapy in treating insomnia shows that subjects are able to fall asleep more quickly when they receive biofeedback treatment than when they don’t.
The short answer, then, to whether or not biofeedback therapy works is a somewhat qualified “yes.” The practice has been seen to help treat alcoholism and substance abuse, as well as mitigate some of the side effects of withdrawal such as anxiety or sleeplessness. This means that biofeedback therapy could be an incredibly powerful tool for the individual in recovery, especially when combined with the other therapeutic approaches offered at a rehabilitation center.
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Biofeedback therapy is an empirically-tested treatment modality that has shown to be helpful in even the toughest cases of drug and alcohol abuse. If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction, contact a treatment provider now and take the next step on a journey toward recovery.
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