Biofeedback For Anxiety
Using a biofeedback machine to help treat anxiety is one popular use for this clinically proven and drug-free form of therapy.
People who experience intense and frequent feelings of anxiety, especially during times when it is inappropriate or bothersome, are said to suffer from an anxiety-related disorder. This psychological problem affects people from all walks of life and has increasingly become a widespread mental health issue in society today.
Anxiety is a complex bodily response produced from internal and external triggers. These triggers often lie outside of a person’s awareness, such that an anxiety attack can appear to develop out of no where. This is a common experience among sufferers of this disorder and can further provoke a cycle of anxiety that is difficult to escape without comprehensive treatment.
Biofeedback training can be a vital part of this comprehensive treatment.
Click Here to view a list of recommended biofeedback products available online.
There are many types of anxiety disorders, but standard classifications breaks them down into two major categories:
Generalized Anxiety Disorder:
This is the most common type of anxiety and the most common form of psychological disorder overall. Symptoms that sufferers may exhibit include:
- high anxiety
- persistent worrying
- feelings of restlessness
- interference with concentration
- abnormal sleep patterns
- chronic muscle tension
- general fatigue and tiredness
Other Anxiety Disorders:
The DSM-IV of the American Psychiatric Association also details additional anxiety disorders including :
- PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder)
- adjustment disorder
- OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder)
- all types of phobias
- panic disorder (frequent panic attacks)
Who Has Anxiety Disorder?
Women tend to have twice the rate of reported anxiety-related disorders as men, but as only a fraction of sufferers (15-30%) are estimated to seek treatment, anxiety among men is thought to be well underreported. What researches are sure of is that anxiety affects people of all demographics, but is most common among middle-aged people.
How Does Biofeedback Treat Anxiety?
The biofeedback method typically employs a biofeedback machine that is capable of sensing various bodily signals. As a person is monitored with the device, information about their physiology is fedback in real time. This is the feedback process at work.
For patients dealing with anxiety, a biofeedback machine may record subtle bodily changes that are precursors to an oncoming panic or anxiety attack. Through continued training, a patient can spot these warning signs and learn how to prevent or subdue an attack before it completely overwhelms them.
The biofeedback technique is rooted in skill learning; it is a form of treatment that develops when a patient learns to identify and control bodily functions that are normally out of their awareness or not under their direct control.
How Does Biofeedback Monitor Anxiety?
Each type of biofeedback treatment corresponds to the method in which a sensor measures a particular physiological response. Some of the sensors used in anxiety therapy may include:
- heart rate monitor (pulse strength, BPM and HRV)
- capnographer (respiratory CO2 monitor)
- EEG (brainwave activity)
- EMG (muscle tension)
- GSP (sweat gland monitor)
- Finger temperature (blood flow)
As you can see, there are a variety of ways in which a biofeedback machine can assess levels of anxiety in a patient. This is why treating anxiety is one of the most common applications for this relatively new form of therapy.
Symptoms of Anxiety With Biofeedback
Using various body sensors, a biofeedback machine can record a patient’s response to an anxiety-provoking event. During treatment, a patient may be asked to experience some mental stress to reproduce these changes for observation. This reaction can lead to common anxiety symptoms that can be captured and analyzed by the biofeedback device. Such responses may include:
- Accelerated, rapid breathing
- Rising blood pressure
- Increased heart rate with reduced heart rate variability
- Excessive beta wave production
- Increased sweating
- Muscle tension in the head, neck and back
Although most of these symptoms are self-evident when an attack occurs, sensitive biofeedback machines can often detect the development of these symptoms well in advance of the patient becoming aware of them.
For instance, most of us have no conscious perception or control over the functioning of our sweat glands, but GSR sensors can pick up tiny changes in the electrical conductivity of the skin within seconds of a person experiencing arousal to their autonomic nervous system.
A person experiencing a threat or negative emotion may produce a physiological reaction that a GSR biofeedback device can capture almost immediately. Such a trigger may lead to a panic attack sometime later, but through persistent biofeedback training, these warning signs can be recognized and acted upon to prevent such an occurrence from happening. This is an example of how biofeedback can be used to treat anxiety disorders.
Biofeedback At Home: Treating Anxiety Long-Term
Anxiety disorders are chronic in nature and to unlearn this pattern of behavior often takes serious commitment. Because visiting a biofeedback therapist regularly can be expensive and inconvenient, many anxiety sufferers wish to acquire biofeedback machines that they can operate themselves. Fortunately, there are now consumer-oriented biofeedback machines specifically for home use.
How Effective is Biofeedback For Treating Anxiety?
Most clinical trials have shown that biofeedback training can effectively reduce anxiety. The effectiveness of these techniques can be explained by what biofeedback attempts to accomplish: correcting the core behaviors that lead to anxiety attacks.
Biofeedback teaches a person how to use the power of their mind to produce real physical changes in their body.
Most of us believe that our nervous system lies largely outside of our awareness and conscious control. But with biofeedback training, this has shown to not be completely true. With persistent training, a person can learn how to correct their body’s response to triggers that would otherwise cause them anxiety-related distress.
Click here to view a list of recommended biofeedback products available online.