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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