What Is Neurofeedback?
Neurofeedback is a type of biofeedback that uses real-time video or audio displays to measure a person’s brainwave activity, with the purpose of teaching self-regulation of functionality. With time, the brain finds how to build and retain the beneficial habits of brain waves that facilitate positive changes in thinking and behavior.
The goal of neurofeedback therapy is to help people learn to improve their mental states and well-being. For people suffering from addiction and mental health disorders, neurofeedback therapy has been used as an alternative treatment technique used to change brain functioning and help end the cycle. As mentioned above, Neurotherapy has also become a commonly used therapeutic tool for treating mental health disorders ranging from depression and anxiety.
The History of Neurofeedback Therapy
Neurofeedback therapy was created in the 1960s as a way to help people with epilepsy. However, it wasn’t until the 1990s that neurofeedback began to be used as a treatment for other conditions, such as ADD/ADHD, anxiety, and depression.
How Does Neurofeedback Therapy Work?
Neurofeedback is a safe and effective treatment that employs neurological control to aid in the development of more harmonious brain processes with a balanced mid-to-high frequency brainwave pattern. This technique is known as biofeedback. Mental health professionals utilize an electroencephalogram (EEG) test to measure and detect brain activity.
The EGG involves wires with electrode sensors being placed around the head to listen and/or see a person’s brainwave activity. These sensors don’t send any signal to the brain, but rather, they gather information into a computer by reading a person’s brainwaves, levels of blood pressure, heart rate, and skin temperature.
Medical professionals then evaluate the data and gain critical insight into how someone’s brain is functioning. For those with addictions or mental health conditions, Neurotherapy can be crucial in aiding medical professionals to make accurate diagnoses and create an effective treatment/recovery plan.
This guidance encourages the brain to learn what it has to do to make the screen brighter. Operant conditioning techniques usually play a role. With time, neurofeedback therapy assists the brain in learning how to build and retain the beneficial habits of good brain activity and facilitate positive thinking and behavior.
What Should I Expect During Neurofeedback Therapy Sessions?
During neurofeedback therapy, you may be prompted to display pictures on a tablet, listen to music, or play a game, depending on the recovery plan. As you partake in the exercise, the doctor utilizes advanced brain imaging tools providing audio/video feedback to track the ebb and flow of your brainwave patterns in real-time and sets specific training criteria.
As a result, whenever the screen becomes brighter, this indicates the brain is producing favorable brain wave signals. Vice versa, if the screen dims, the brain is producing less than favorable activity. During neurofeedback therapy sessions, expect to see:
- A neurofeedback therapist will place sensors on your scalp. These sensors will measure your brain activity.
- You will then be asked to do some activities, such as watching a movie or playing a video game.
- As you watch the movie or play the game, the neurofeedback therapist will look at your brain activity on a monitor.
- If your brain is functioning properly, you will see positive feedback on the monitor.
- If your brain is not functioning properly, you will see negative feedback on the monitor.
- The goal of neurofeedback therapy is to help you learn how to control your brain activity.
The Connection Between Addiction and the Brain
When someone is addicted to drugs, over time the brain and body become dependent or tolerant. This is because, in the reward region of the brain, the neurotransmitter dopamine is released, which is responsible for the feeling of pleasure and euphoria. During this neurological cycle, signals are sent to a person’s brain to continue using their drug of choice, because it is used to them being in their system to function. This is known as drug tolerance.
How Do Substances Affect the Brain?
Substances such as alcohol, cocaine, and marijuana affect the brain by altering the way it produces, uses, and stores neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters are chemicals that relay messages between nerve cells. When these messages are disrupted, it can lead to problems with mood, memory, and cognition.
What Does Long-term Substance Abuse Do to Brain Structures Over Time?
Over time, long-term substance abuse can lead to changes in the brain structures that are responsible for things like memory, learning, and impulse control. These changes can persist even after someone stops using drugs, which can contribute to addiction.
Mind Over Matter: How Does Addiction Influence Brain Waves?
Brain waves are electrical impulses that travel through the brain. These waves are divided into different categories, including beta, alpha, theta, and delta waves. Each type of wave has a different frequency and is associated with a different state of mind.
For example, beta waves are associated with alertness and focus, while theta waves are associated with daydreaming and drowsiness. Addiction causes changes to the chemistry in the brain, which affects thoughts, feelings, and behavior. Therefore, unfavorable brain wave activity may contribute to symptoms like cravings, impulsivity, and difficulty concentrating.
How Does Neurofeedback Therapy Help Treat Addiction?
Addiction is a complex disease that affects the brain in multiple ways. Neurofeedback therapy can help by teaching people to control their brainwaves and improve their self-regulation. In one study, neurofeedback was found to be effective in reducing cravings and relapse in people with alcohol dependence. Another study found that neurofeedback significantly reduced symptoms of withdrawal in people with cocaine dependence.
Other studies have found neurofeedback to help treat other types of addiction, such as gambling addiction. The study found that neurofeedback was associated with reduced cravings, increased self-control, and improved mental health in people with substance use disorders.
Among Americans aged 12 years and older, 31.9 million are current illegal drug users (used within the last 30 days). 11.7% of Americans 12 and overuse illegal drugs.53 million or 19.4% of people 12 and over have used illegal drugs or misused prescription drugs within the last year.
22% of males and 17% of females used illegal drugs or misused prescription drugs within the last year. 5% of people in non-metropolitan, rural counties used illegal drugs compared to 20.2% of people in larger metropolitan counties.
What Are The Risks of Neurofeedback Therapy?
The risks of neurofeedback therapy are minimal. The most common side effect is headaches, which typically go away after a few sessions. Neurofeedback therapy has been proven to be an effective treatment for addiction and mental health. It is safe, effective, and has few side effects. If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, neurofeedback therapy may be an option worth considering.
Which Mental Health Conditions Does Neurofeedback Therapy Help Treat?
Neurofeedback therapy helps treat a variety of mental health conditions, including:
- Anxiety disorders
- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a condition characterized by inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. ADHD is most commonly diagnosed in young people. An estimated 8.8%of children aged 4-17 have ADHD. While ADHD is usually diagnosed in childhood, it does not only affect children. An estimated 4.4% of adults aged 18-44 have ADHD.
With treatment, people with ADHD can be successful in school, work, and lead productive lives. Researchers are using new tools such as brain imaging to better understand the condition and to find more effective ways to treat and prevent ADHD.
Anxiety disorders are the most common mental health concern in the United States. Over 40 million adults in the U.S. (19.1%) have an anxiety disorder. Meanwhile, approximately 7% of children aged 3-17 experience issues with anxiety each year. Most people develop symptoms before age 21.
Depressive disorder, frequently referred to simply as depression, is more than just feeling sad or going through a rough patch. It’s a serious mental health condition that requires understanding and medical care. Left untreated, depression can be devastating for those who have it and their families. Fortunately, with early detection, diagnosis, and a treatment plan consisting of medication, psychotherapy, and healthy lifestyle choices, many people can and do get better.
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is characterized by repetitive, unwanted, intrusive thoughts (obsessions) and irrational, excessive urges to do certain actions (compulsions). Although people with OCD may know that their thoughts and behavior don’t make sense, they are often unable to stop them.
PTSD affects 3.6% of the U.S. adult population—about 9 million individuals. About 37% of those diagnosed with PTSD are classified as having severe symptoms. Women are significantly more likely to experience PTSD than men.
How Does Mental Health Contribute to Substance Abuse?
Mental health can contribute to substance abuse because often the symptoms of mental health conditions are self-medicated with drugs or alcohol. This can lead to a vicious cycle in which the individual continues to use substances in an attempt to relieve their symptoms, but the substance abuse only makes the mental health condition worse. Neurofeedback may help break this cycle by teaching individuals how to self-regulate their brain activity and reduce their reliance on substances.
1 in 5 U.S. adults experiences mental illness each year. 1 in 20 U.S. adults experiences serious mental illness each year. 1 in 6 U.S. youth aged 6-17 experience a mental health disorder each year. 50% of all lifetime mental illness begins by age 14, and 75% by age 24. Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death among people aged 10-34. 6.7% of U.S. adults experienced a co-occurring substance use disorder and mental illness in 2020 (17 million people).
46.2% of U.S. adults with mental illness received treatment in 2020. 64.5% of U.S. adults with serious mental illness received treatment in 2020. 11% of U.S. adults with mental illness had no insurance coverage in 2020. 11.3% of U.S. adults with serious mental illness had no insurance coverage in 2020. 55% of U.S. counties do not have a single practicing psychiatrist.
Which Substance Abuse Disorders Would Be Best Treated by Neurofeedback Therapy?
The substance abuse disorders that would be best treated by neurofeedback therapy are alcohol dependence and cocaine dependence. Neurofeedback is associated with decreased drug use and fewer cravings in individuals with these disorders.
How Does Neurofeedback Therapy Affect Withdrawal Symptoms?
Neurofeedback therapy can help to decrease the intensity of withdrawal symptoms and shorten the duration of detoxification. In addition, neurofeedback can help to reduce cravings and prevent relapses.
What Are The Long-term Effects of Neurofeedback Therapy?
The long-term effects of neurofeedback therapy are not yet known, but preliminary research suggests that it may be a promising treatment option for addiction.
When Should I Seek Neurofeedback Therapy?
You should seek neurofeedback therapy when you are struggling with addiction and want to find a more effective way to overcome your addiction. Neurofeedback therapy can help you learn to control your brain activity so that you can better manage your addiction. Neurofeedback therapy is also used in conjunction with other evidence-based therapies, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), to provide a comprehensive approach to addiction recovery.
How Much Does Neurofeedback Therapy Cost?
The cost of neurofeedback therapy can vary depending on the number of sessions and the type of neurofeedback used. Some insurance companies may cover neurofeedback therapy, but it is important to check with your provider before beginning treatment.
Neurofeedback therapy is a promising treatment option for addiction recovery. It is an evidence-based therapy that is effective in reducing drug cravings and consumption. Neurofeedback works by retraining the brain to function more effectively, which can help reduce the risk of relapse and improve overall health and well-being. If you are struggling with addiction, neurofeedback therapy may be right for you.
Discover the Possibility of Recovery With Neurofeedback Therapy
After many years of struggling with substance abuse, you’ve finally decided to enter treatment. When you’re in the continuum of care, there are a wealth of options to choose from to fit your specific needs. LUNA Recovery aims to be the lifeline for your addiction journey. You deserve to witness your growth through the expertise of quality treatment and warm care from trained staff. If you or a loved one are working through addiction, reach out to our facility today.
Dr. Allaire received his Bachelors of Science in Biology from the University of Houston, as Valedictorian of the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, and his Medical Doctorate from Baylor College of Medicine, where he served as Chief Resident. He is the medical monitor for the Physician Counseling Committee of the Harris County Medical Society and the Medical Director of Serenity House Detox. Dr. Allaire specializes in medically assisted detox cases, treating patients in recovery from addiction or other mental health disorders, the medical assessment and monitoring of patients with addictive disorders, medical care related to eating disorders and the medical treatment of patients with mental health conditions.