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What IS biofeedback? 

The term “biofeedback,” sounds like over complicated medical terminology. You may be wondering what the heck it is and how it has anything to do with your mental health and why we would be writing our blog on it. The answer is: A LOT! We will try to keep the science simple as we explain but please bare with us as we muddle through, over the next several weeks we are going to explore not just WHAT biofeedback is by the various ways it can be used on a medical and personal level to help you gain better control over your medical and mental health.

Biofeedback is:

A process whereby electronic monitoring of a normally automatic bodily function is used to train someone to acquire voluntary control of that function.

More simply put it typically means using some type of external device in a NONINVASIVE way to give you information about your body so that you have better control over its functions. Noninvasive means there are typically no needle sticks or physical discomfort involved at all, just sensors used to monitor your body (sometimes electrical pulses, but no shocks involved, thankfully).

Examples of the most common biofeedback devices you may be aware of are oximeters (that thing you put on your finger to check your heart rate and oxygen levels), smart watches/ activity trackers, EEG, ECG, EDG, EMG (Man that’s a lot of E & Gs), and various breathing devices. Today’s blog will go into an overview of each category and check back in the upcoming weeks for more detailed info on how you can use them to balance your mental health.

Categories of Biofeedback devices
  • Brain waves (EEG)
  • Breathing
  • Heart rate (ECG) –
  • Oxygen rates (oximeters)
  • Muscle contractions (EMG)
  • Galvanic skin response (EDG)
  • Thermal/ Temperature changes
It seems simple enough, but what do you do with this information?

 Armed with the information about what your body is doing, you are able to use that to create change that better suits your needs and improves your wellness.

  • Doctors use it to identify heart conditions, nerve damage, and various other medical conditions.
  • The police can use to determine if someone is telling the truth or not (Lie detector tests include EDG and EEG to determine emotional arousal and stress responses)
  • Coupled with your individual counseling you can use it to help move your healing process forward.
What Can Biofeedback Help Me With?

Biofeedback is an umbrella term for monitoring bodily functions and as such there is a wide range of issues that it can diagnose and treat. Some devices are able to be used at home and without assistance and may generate a type of feedback profile for you as well as help you to be calmer and more balanced in daily life. Some devices may even help you CHANGE your body functions by giving you signals to breathe differently or adjust your physical settings. Listed below is an extensive list of uses for biofeedback according to the Foundation of Peripheral Neuropathy:

Physical and Mental issues that Biofeedback can help with:
  • Anxiety
  • PTSD/Trauma
  • Panic
  • Chronic pain
  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • High blood pressure
  • Asthma
  • Autism
  • Back pain
  • Constipation
  • Depression
  • Diabetes
  • Epilepsy and related seizure disorders
  • Headaches and migraines
  • Head injuries
  • Insomnia
  • Learning disabilities
  • Motion sickness
  • Muscle spasms
  • Spinal cord injuries
  • Raynaud’s disease

Oftentimes a counselor might have you use a biofeedback device to help build skills and control between sessions. This can be with using either a wearable device or an interactive computer or mobile device. For devices used for managing stress and emotional responses it should be emphasized that while biofeedback can be super helpful, it DOES NOT replace counseling. It focuses on helping you control the body but does not necessarily address the underlying causes of your stress or anxiety.  

The purpose of today’s blog was to give a very general overview of WHAT biofeedback means and is. To learn more general information about biofeedback and the different ways it is used for different concerns, click here. In our next blog we are going to focus in on devices that help monitor and regulate  breathing and how this can help you better control symptoms of stress, anxiety and panic. If you would like to work with one of our counselors to help explore how this can specifically apply to you please reach out at 724-654-9555 or complete our contact form and we will call you!

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