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What Is Biofeedback?

Biofeedback is a self-help technique in which individuals are taught to address the physiological symptoms that are associated with stress, anxiety, and other concerns. This is accomplished by incorporating your breathing, focusing on your heart rate, and changing your thought process to make the necessary efficient adjustments.

Biofeedback utilizes highly sensitive computerized instruments that can let you know when you're stressed or relaxed even when you may not realize it. Specialists in many different fields use biofeedback to help individuals cope with stress, anxiety, depression, anger, test anxiety, and many other concerns.

Biofeedback is a technique you can use to learn to control your body's functions, such as your heart rate. With biofeedback, you're connected to electrical sensors that help you receive information (feedback) about your body.

​Treating Anxiety Symptoms with Biofeedback. ... For many who suffer from an anxiety disorder, they will usually tell you that it never goes away, but they have learned to control it so that the symptoms are less overwhelming. Biofeedback therapy is a highly effective research-based treatment for anxiety disorders.

​Biofeedback therapy involves learning to reduce muscle tension in the head and neck or modifying blood flow, usually by warming the hands (an indirect but easily measured way of reducing stress-related responses). In most cases biofeedback is combined with relaxation training.

According to Psychology Today April 29, 2016:

Biofeedback can help with:

Focus and attention - Many of us are looking to improve our ability (or our childrens' ability) to focus and pay attention. The trouble is that our prefrontal-cortex is not working as effectively as it should. In terms of EEG, this typically means that the frequency of activity in this part of the brain is too low. Simple neurofeedback intervention can gradually train the prefrontal cortex to increase its production of Alpha and SMR (Sensorimotor Rhythm), leaving you feeling more alert, focused and attentive. I've seen clients achieve long-term changes that are at least equivalent to medication effects within two months of training!

Improved sleep - There can be a number of ways for sleep disturbance to occur - obsessive thoughts that won't let you go at night, physical tension and restlessness that makes relaxation difficult or trauma-like anxiety that seems to get worse particularly when you close your eyes. Each of these can be caused by a completely different brain pattern and still cause what feels like insomnia. The results from biofeedback training can be staggering and help some who have been using sleep medication for decades to finally kick the habit!

Generalized anxiety and stress reduction - We live in a stressful world and we rarely figure out ways to reign in that stress. But we know that chronic, long-term stress can cause some terrible problems - cancer, hypertension, strokes and heart attacks are but a short part of that list. Simple Heart Rate Variability (HRV) training - think meditation through a computer - can help you learn not only to be more mindful of your stress response but also how to control it. It's no wonder that HRV training has been shown to improve blood pressure, increase mood, reduce anxiety, improve performance in sports and cognition and so much more! By committing to HRV training for a few short months you can substantially change your wellbeing forever. 

Peak performance - People are using neurofeedback and biofeedback to help with their golf game, improve the focus at work and increase their creativity. At Alternatives, we often see family members of clients begin practicing because they see the incredible impact the services can have. It's been reported that the Italian soccer team uses it to optimize performance (and reduce brain trauma from headers) and actors and dancers can use certain protocols to improve their creative states while reducing anxiety. My favorite part of the peak performance application is that it moves us away from the idea that therapies must only be used to overcome problems. In reality, they are much better suited to preventing them in the first place!

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