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Biofeedback Therapy and Addiction Treatment

New treatment approaches that can assist individuals who are battling with substance abuse are undoubtedly great news to patients. Biofeedback is one of the most thrilling developments in addiction treatment that has been in use for decades. It’s used to treat multiple issues, most commonly hypertension, anxiety, epilepsy, ADHD, and now has also been incorporated into addiction treatments. An alternative treatment that has shown significant promise within addiction treatment, it can help an individual obtain long-term sobriety and reduces the potential of future relapse.

What is Biofeedback Therapy?

According to The Association for Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback Inc., biofeedback is “a process that enables individuals to learn how to change physiological activity for the purposes of improving health and performance”. These changes occur involuntarily and include changes in body temperature, increased blood pressure, increased heart rate, or muscle tension.

During a biofeedback session, electrodes are attached to the patient’s skin, but also finger sensors can be used. The electrodes or sensors send signals to a special medical device that displays a sound, light, or image that represents the patient’s heart, breathing rate, blood pressure, skin temperature, or muscle activity.

The patient can see on the screen when they’re under stress since their heart rate speeds up, their muscles tighten, they start to sweat, and their breathing rate quickens. This information helps them use relaxation exercises to control how their body responds to stressful situations like withdrawals and cravings.

There are a few relaxation exercises that patients participate in, such as:

  • Deep breathing
  • Progressive muscle relaxation – an exercise that focuses on releasing tension in over-tight muscles.
  • Guided imagery – an exercise that focuses on directing thoughts toward positive images and scenarios to relax the mind and body.
  • Mindfulness meditation – an exercise that focuses on releasing negative emotions and thoughts through peaceful concentration.

Equipment Used for Biofeedback

Biofeedback utilizes a wide range of special medical equipment, depending on which physiologic functions are being monitored. The most commonly used devices include:

  • Electromyographs (EMG): an instrument used in the diagnosis of neuromuscular disorders that produces an audio or visual record of the electrical activity of a skeletal muscle by means of an electrode inserted into the muscle or placed on the skin.
  • Feedback thermometers: provides data on skin temperature.
  • Electrodermographs (EDG): measures skin electrical activity.
  • Electroencephalographs (EEG): an electrophysiological monitoring method to record electrical activity of the brain. It may be used for ADHD, epilepsy and other seizure disorders.
  • Pneumographs: a device for recording velocity and force of chest movements during respiration.
  • Photoplethysmographs (PPG): provides data on blood flow through a digit, blood volume pulse, and heart rate.
  • Electrocardiograms (ECG): shows the heart’s electrical activity as line tracings on paper.
  • Hemoencephalographs (HEG): provides data on the relative amounts of oxygenated and deoxygenated blood in the brain area.
  • Rheoencephalographs (REG):  a technique of continuous registration of cerebral blood flow.

The Purpose of Biofeedback

Biofeedback therapy can be helpful in many different conditions, including:

  • Chronic pain: biofeedback can help patients identify tight muscles and them assist them with relaxing those muscles. It can relieve the discomfort of conditions such as abdominal pain, fibromyalgia, and temporomandibular joint disorders.
  • Migraines: biofeedback is a commonly sought treatment for headaches and migraines. It has shown to reduce the frequency and severity of symptoms in people, especially when it’s combined with medication.
  • Anxiety: biofeedback helps patients become more aware of their body’s responses when they’re anxious and stressed. They learn how to control those responses and lower their stress levels.
  • Urinary incontinence: biofeedback can help women strengthen the pelvic floor muscles that control bladder emptying. It can also shown to help children who wet the bed, as well as people with fecal incontinence.
  • ADHD: there is growing evidence that biofeedback may help people with ADHD. However, further research is needed to confirm its effectiveness.

Other biofeedback uses include:

  • High blood pressure
  • Raynaud’s disease
  • Injury
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Asthma
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Epilepsy

Biofeedback and Addiction

Just like PTSD, epilepsy, and ADHD, addiction is another disease of the brain. Since biofeedback can help retrain the brain to be calmer, to manage painful memories, and to prevent seizures, it should also be able to help addicts resist cravings for alcohol and drugs. According to the facilities that use this approach, relapse rates are as low as 25 percent, unlike traditional addiction treatment rehabs where relapse occurs in three quarters of those in recovery.

Substance abuse withdrawal symptoms commonly lead to great physical stress and heightened involuntary responses. This innovative technique can track involuntary functions like breathing rate, skin temperature, blood pressure, sweating, and muscle contractions. Biofeedback medical devices record these bodily functions and display them to the addict. For example, if a recovering addict’s heart rate is pulsing heavily, they will know they need to use stress-relieving techniques to lower their heart rate. Biofeedback can help treat common symptoms of substance abuse withdrawal, such as anxiety, depression, restlessness, and chronic muscle pain.

Many inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation centers offer biofeedback therapy that is well-integrated with other treatment options like cognitive behavioral therapy, and art and music therapy. On-site therapy sessions generally last 30 minutes to an hour. Those suffering from a mild addiction might only need 10 biofeedback sessions in order to obtain positive results. For more severe addiction, it can take up to 50 sessions. Since it’s a medication-free treatment, biofeedback therapy can be helpful for addicted pregnant women who are recovering.

Overall, it’s a mind-body modality that helps recovering addicts consciously change their bodily sensations, reactions to thoughts, their stress response, and certain electrical activities of the brain. It’s a promising therapy that needs more research and time devoted to it in order to see more people getting healed from the shackles of addiction.

For more information please call this Toll Free 24/7 Addiction Treatment Helpline at (844) 439-4765. This is a completely confidential call. If you have health insurance it may cover up to 100% of the treatment cost. So please call now!

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