Biofeedback. What's the deal?
April 7, 2007 10:00 PM   Subscribe

BiofeedbackFilter: What can expect from Biofeedback in regards to a nervous disorder?

My doctor has recommended biofeedback as treatment for a nervous tic that I've been experiencing at different levels of severity for a long time now. I really don't know much about the process, but I'm kind of worried it's one of these new-agey treatments that only work if you believe they work. Does anyone have experience with biofeedback and do you think it will be beneficial in helping me control the anxiety/tics?
posted by kmtiszen to Health & Fitness (4 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
My brother actually took a several month course of neuro biofeedback for a nervous tic.

Basically, the process was thus: (And my father disclaims that it was a "different kind" of biofeedback,
They attach electrodes to your head, in different positions to ostensibly sense different wavelengths.

You then play a game, like pacman or anything that involves moving towards a game. If you lose focus, your progress slows down, and you only make any progress by focusing and concentrating.

The key for him was to empty his mind and think about nothing. It was very expensive, and insurance didn't cover it, but he saw effects after 30 or so sessions, and significant help after 60 sessions. (So, less of a placebo—he had no hope or belief it would help at all.)

He says the doctor explained that it thusly: Big circle on board = OCD and small circle = you. Right now, you're overwhelmed by the OCD. My brother asked if it would cure it, and he explained it would instead invert the circles. You might still have those thoughts in the future, but you'll kow you can overtake them and not fall to them.

It essentially trains your brain out of those tics and everything. (And my brother had SEVERE OCD.)

He also found that inositol was incredibly helpful, which he took later for some other tics and issues. Please see my answer here on that.

Let me know if you have any other questions. We're not familiar with the other forms of biofeedback, and were told this was "nuero biofeedback."

It really did help normalize the poor kid. No more obsessive hand washing until bleeding, or scratching back of neck noise or the other dozen tics he had. And he had been through a gamut of things before this, to little effect. He really didn't believe it'd work, which perhaps speaks some to its efficacy, though he was discouraged at first, because of how long it took to take effect.

Good luck!
posted by disillusioned at 10:44 PM on April 7, 2007

I've had biofeedback, although not for a nervous tic. I'm sure the process is similar regardless of the affliction. Basically, they hook sensors up to your muscles, and the sensors read the muscle activity, and measure the relative strength of the input. It's shown to you in real-time on a TV screen in front of you, either as a line graph (like a richter scale) or a bar graph.

It helped me to be more conscious of subtle muscle movements I didn't realize I was making, because every time I made one it was registered on-screen in front of me. So spending time with the biofeedback machine helped me to synch up my mental acknowledgement with my physical action.

My biofeedback treatment also involved exercises that set goals for me (around muscle control and strength) and measured my progress over time. I got "homework" between sessions to continue my progress.

I found it quite helpful, and not remotely new-agey. It's not something you can fake your way through, and you'll know pretty quickly whether or not it's helpful.
posted by nadise at 12:19 AM on April 8, 2007

According to Steven Johnson's book Mind Wide Open it's not new-agey, but that doesn't mean that some advocates come across as new-age evangelists. That probably has a lot to do with it's connections with meditation and 'states of consciousness'. It's a book worth checking out, easy to read and probably quite reassuring.
posted by liquidindian at 5:18 AM on April 8, 2007

I went to biofeedback for a few months for migraine headaches, and it worked like a dream. I went from having a headache a day for a month to having maybe one every two weeks, and the severity decreased too.

Also, I'm aware I'm parroting liquidindian a little here, but beware: some biofeedback specialists (like mine) will indeed come off as new-agey. Please don't let this be a turn-off. It really does help a wide variety of issues, and might indeed help you.
posted by mismatched at 10:18 AM on April 9, 2007

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