Biofeedback: The New Way to Treat Anxiety

While it was a very uncommon therapy 25 years ago, biofeedback is rapidly emerging into the mainstream, being taken up by more and more professionals and being granted coverage by Medicare and many health insurers for a range of conditions.

While applied psychophysiology is still in its “testing”phase, and not all the benefits of learning and applying self-regulatory skills have proven as profound as was hoped for and predicted by some, a sufficient body of research (and related clinical data) does support biofeedback being used in a substantial secondary role when it comes to treating myriad disorders. As new research emerges, more and more possible applications for this therapy are being imagined and tested.

The term “biofeedback”(or psychophysiological feedback), is used to describe the process of electronically monitoring involuntary or sub-threshold physiological processes, then influencing these processes via intentional changes in cognition, in an attempt to utilize the mind-body connection to its fullest advantage. Biofeedback provides a medication-free form of therapy that allows one to influence one’s own health through the power of the mind.

This process begins in a quiet room, where the patient (hooked up to various sensors) relaxes in a comfortable chair while viewing a monitor that displays multiple processes that are ongoing in his or her own body. Visual and auditory feedback is then employed to reinforce the patient attaining the desired physiological states as set out by his or her specific treatment program. Various data can be collected and stored as part of monitoring the patient’s treatment over the long term.

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What is Biofeedback?

Biofeedback is a very versatile treatment method for helping people become healthier using signals or feedback from their own bodies. Healthcare professionals use biofeedback to teach patients how to help themselves. Psychologists use it to help clients who suffer from anxiety learn how to reduce tension and relax. Physical therapists use this technique with victims of stroke in helping them regain mobility in paralyzed muscles.

You certainly used biofeedback in its most simple forms. A thermometer tells you if you’re running a fever and a scale tells you whether you’re gaining or losing weight. Both of these devices give you “feedback”, which is information about your body. With this feedback you can decide what to do to help yourself. If you’ve got a fever you know you need to stay in bed and drink fluids. If you’re gaining weight, you can make the decision to go on a diet.

Healthcare professionals use sophisticated biofeedback equipment in a similar manner. This equipment observes what’s going on inside a person’s body, their bodily functions, with a great deal of precision. The information gleaned is extremely helpful for both patients and their healthcare provider for measuring progress and directing treatment.

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Review of ThoughtStream Biofeedback Device

ThoughtStream™ – Galvanic Skin Response (GSR) biofeedback system with interactive multimedia software for Windows

Biofeedback has long been accepted as one of the most effective tools available for the control of stress. Until now you had to pay upwards of a thousand dollars for a “clinical” model, or purchase one of the “toy” models. ThoughtStream™ was introduced as the world’s first personal galvanic skin response (GSR) biofeedback training system: it is as accurate as many clinical models, yet extremely easy to use. ThoughtStream is lightweight, it has attractive design with a unique palm-of-the-hand sensor. It includes a carrying case, headphones and a manual – everything you need to get started!

Mental Games is a radical new concept in personal biofeedback training. With it you can learn how to:

  • Quickly shift from relaxed to highly focused states of mind/body integration and back again
  • “Fine-tune” your ability to pay close attention to selected tasks
  • Stay calm in difficult/stressful situations
  • Achieve sustained states of Zen-like mental clarity
  • Plus much more!

Features of ThoughtStream Biofeedback:

  • Unique four-color visual display shows you exactly how you are doing
  • Eight sensitivity levels for beginning to advanced training
  • Exceptionally smooth audio feedback
  • PC interface option
  • Can interface with and control the Proteus system
  • Learn to control psychological stress and overcome anxiety
  • Improve focus and concentration
  • Gain control of your emotional states
  • Enhance your meditation experience
  • Reduce or eliminate anxiety before exams (performance anxiety), meetings or public speaking (social anxiety)
  • Mental Games Software: Progressive Biofeedback Training and “Sensomotoric”, or mind/body integration

 

Below, we introduce some of the training modules included in this package. ThoughtStream Biofeedback device ships with Level 1 (Progressive Biofeedback Training) and Level 2 (“Sensomotoric”, or mind/body integration). Future modules will include a Personal Database and Level’s 3 (Emotional Integration), 4 (Abstract Reasoning), 5 (Mental Design), 6 (Meta-Mental) and 7 (Trans-Mental).

Mental Games Level One
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Select one of the four included compelling multimedia biofeedback training exercises, then your sensitivity (difficulty) After completing graph your results. A large range of background scenes and animated feedback sprites are available. You can train “up”, “down”, or both directions in a single session.

Mental Games Level Two
Brief descriptions and screenshots from Mental Games Level II. The program has much more depth and complexity than we can convey here, with multiple difficulty levels and a range of additional parameters you can select. We think the interface, with its post-Bauhaus frame of cool, geometrical symbols to be one of the most original we’ve seen. What we haven’t shown are the “net games”, which require the Internet to access, or the fact that you can add custom games to the interface.

 

mental games 2 digitsmental-games-music
Digits.
Click on each number in sequence. This one really sharpens your attention and ability to separate meaningful information from “clutter”. Three levels of difficulty.
Music Plot.
Three different ways to control music with your thoughts and feelings, while
watching the results being graphed! Learn to connect to your inner states with
aural perception and expand your understanding of mind/body interaction.
mental-games-insectmental-games-focus
Insects.
A full-blown video game with a twist:  all those little ants running around at
different speeds must be converted to ladybugs!  Insects is designed to
enhance your spacial processing skills.  Three levels of difficulty.
Focus.
This amazing set of exercises helps calibrate and expand your peripheral vision and ability to perceive fast, transient events.  We find it totally engrossing, and the more difficult levels are fiendishly engrossing!
mental-games-rainfrop[smental-games-mandal
Raindrops.
Catch as many falling drops as you can–and it can rain pretty hard!
Integrates eye/hand coorination with perception of vertical motion.  Three
skill levels.
Mandalas. You’re
making those concentric rings rotate–in opposite directions.  Three mandalas
and eight fantastic ambient sountracks, selected via those little colored
balls on the sides.  Perfect means to achieve tranquil, meditative states of
consciousness.