Using Biofeedback to Control Anxiety

In today’s #ThursdayThoughts we are pleased to publish the second article in our “Therapists Thoughts” series. This time the theme is Biofeedback and how it can be used in therapy to control anxiety. This guest post is by Centre lead therapist and trained biofeedback trainer, Sharron Grainger.

Biofeedback to Control Anxiety

nerve cell biofeedbackBiofeedback is a self‐regulation technique through which people learn to voluntarily control what were once thought to be involuntary body processes. This intervention requires specialised equipment and a practitioner trained to Biofeedback Certification International Alliance (BCIA) blueprint standards in the use of the biofeedback equipment to convert physiological signals into meaningful visual and auditory cues, to guide the therapy. Using a screen, you will get feedback that will help you to develop control over your physiology. Just as looking into a mirror allows one to see and change positions, expressions, etc., biofeedback allows you to see inside your body, while Sharron serves as a guide directing you to use the feedback to regulate your physiology in a healthy direction.

Biofeedback used in conjunction with CBT – Cognitive Behavioural Therapy – is a technique that strengthens the mind, much like therapy or exercise strengthens the body. Through this technique, individuals learn to control their minds and thought patterns and how to concentrate for extended periods of time. When individuals learn and participate in controlling their own mind and thought patterns, it allows them to focus negative thoughts in a new, positive direction. This helps you gain control not only of negative thoughts and how to focus them in a different direction, but also your behaviour as well.

During the process, Sharron will place electronic sensors on various areas of the body (mainly hands) so that heart rate, blood pressure, skin temperature, muscle activity, and other functions can be monitored. A state of relaxation is then induced so that you can actually see the changes in your body being displayed on a computer screen as tension and stress are introduced through issues that are perhaps troubling you.

Once people see how anxiety makes their bodies react, they can actually visualize the changes when they become tense or frightened. After this phase, biofeedback involves Sharron teaching you how to reduce your own anxiety and tension through refocused thinking, deep paced breathing, and various relaxation techniques.

After completing a number of sessions, you will be able to relate the connection between your thoughts and how your body reacts. In essence, you can learn a new behaviour and control your thought process, gradually eliminating the negative or “anxious” thoughts that cause physical symptoms and disrupt your life.

Will Biofeedback Work for You?

While there are no guarantees that any type of therapy, medication or counselling will work for everybody, biofeedback is an evidence-based therapy that has been proven successful for many who suffer from anxiety disorders. Research even suggests that children are often better candidates for biofeedback therapy because they do not yet have the ingrained thought patterns and pain responses embedded into their minds that adults do.

The benefits of biofeedback for anxiety are numerous. Not only can most people learn to focus their thoughts in a new direction thereby reducing anxiety, improved self-esteem and confidence also develop. Think of the combination of biofeedback and cognitive behavioural therapy as exercise to make your mind stronger, enabling you to substitute the negative thoughts that cause anxiety with more positive thoughts that will allow you to calm yourself.

It is important that you understand that biofeedback must be practiced as prescribed regularly between sessions in order for the new habit to become automatic and to eradicate old thought processes.

Sharron Grainger is a Psychologist and Psychotherapist and is trained in the use of General Biofeedback to BCIA blueprint standards. Sharron is available to see clients at the Centre and is contactable through reception.

Phone: +353 1 2100 600
Fax: +353 1 278 9851
297 Beechwood Court
Stillorgan, Co Dublin