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What Is Biofeedback and How Can It Treat Anxiety Disorder?

Biofeedback

Far from simple worrying, anxiety is a gripping psychological condition. While you can just calm down when you’re tense, having an anxiety disorder is a different story. You need much effort to deal with it. Biofeedback is an alternative and complementary form of treatment for mental health conditions like anxiety disorders. Read on to learn how it works.

Definition

A non-drug treatment for anxiety, biofeedback is a mind-body technique. It involves using visual or auditory feedback to gain control over involuntary bodily functions (heart rate, blood flow, blood pressure, etc.). The technique may help relieve symptoms of conditions such as headaches, high blood pressure, chronic stress, and anxiety.

Types

The approach you choose depends on what your therapist recommends and what you want to accomplish. There are many different kinds of biofeedback. Here are some of them:

Breathing

This respiratory biofeedback involves wearing sensor bands around the chest and abdomen to monitor breathing rates and patterns. With training, you learn to have greater control over your breathing rates (proper breathing does a lot for anxiety).

Heart Rate

Known as heart rate variability biofeedback, some evidence shows its effectiveness for anxiety, asthma, and depression. It involves feeding back beat by beat heart rate data during slow breathing so that the breathing matches heart rate patterns. A device shows you on a computer monitor when you’ve maximized this interaction.

Skin Temperature

In this type, you wear sensors that detect blood flow to the skin. Because people experience a drop in body temperature during stress, such devices help you detect when you’re starting to feel stressed. A low reading can indicate a need for some stress management techniques.

Blood Pressure

By making you wear a device that measures blood pressure, the therapist gets information about your blood pressure. He or she will then guide you through relaxation techniques that may rely on breathing exercises, visual cues, or music.

Muscle Tension

In this form of biofeedback, sensors connected to an electromyography (EMG) device are placed on various points on the body. The device detects changes in muscle tension over time by monitoring electrical activity that results in muscle contractions.  

Galvanic Skin Response

Also known as skin conductance, this type is useful for detecting levels of emotional arousal. Emotional stimulation triggers sweat. Galvanic skin response measures the amount of sweat on the skin’s surface. The more strongly you’re aroused, the stronger your skin conductance will be.

Brain Waves

Often referred to as neurofeedback, this biofeedback type makes use of EEG (electroencephalography). It measures brain wave activity by using scalp sensors that are connected to an EEG device. 

Biofeedback for Anxiety Disorder

Many individuals living with anxiety disorder learn how to have control over their condition. Though anxiety can’t just go away, controlling it can make symptoms less overwhelming. Biofeedback helps you become aware of your physiological responses to stress. For instance, some of those that will be visually and audibly displayed using non-invasive instruments are: 

  • Rapid or shallow breathing
  • Skin temperature
  • Hands getting cold and clammy
  • Increase in heart rate
  • Muscle tension
  • EEG showing higher activity for high-beta waves in the brain (these waves increase when the mind is stressed)
  • Loss of metabolic activity in the frontal lobe (showing higher activity in the midbrain’s emotional centers)

Biofeedback teaches you awareness, relaxation skills, and proper ways to manage an anxiety attack. You learn how to recognize, reduce, and control stress responses. Controlling the brain’s activity and maintaining balanced brainwave levels lead to a calm state. When your body returns to a healthier physiological state, you lose the fear and panic caused by anxiety. 

Aside from teaching people how to control their responses in stressful situations, biofeedback can also complement other treatments. For example, there are situations where other treatments haven’t been effective or people are unable to take certain medications. Compared to some treatments, biofeedback is non-invasive.     

Reminder

Although biofeedback is generally safe, talking to a therapist or physician is still necessary. Know about your options and which approach is right for your condition. Once you’re ready for treatment, look for a qualified professional. Also, don’t forget to ask first how much you need for expenses, sessions, and devices you might have to purchase.

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Written by Hannah Grace

Fighting both real and imaginary shadows everyday with music and words.

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