What Is Biofeedback?
Biofeedback is a form of therapy that helps those with a substance use disorder (SUD) gain control over their mind and body during treatment.
During biofeedback, electronic sensors are placed on the patient’s skin. These sensors are wired to a special medical device that gives medical professionals ‘feedback’ on the patient’s ‘bio’ signs.
Biofeedback information is executed with pulsing sounds, images, or flashes of light. The way patients respond to these messages inform how they can learn relaxation exercises to control how their body responds to stressful situations like withdrawals and cravings.
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Biofeedback Therapy And Addiction Treatment
Biofeedback therapy can help those in recovery understand their involuntary functions. Medical professionals then use this information to create a treatment plan tailored to their specific situation. Many of our bodily functions occur without us having to think about them. When we’re nervous, tense, or under severe emotional stress, these involuntary functions can make us more distressed. Biofeedback therapy tracks how the body is unconsciously reacting to physical and emotional tension.
Biofeedback therapy tracks involuntary functions like:
- Breathing rate
- Heart rate
- Skin temperature
- Blood pressure
- Muscle contract
Alcohol or drug withdrawal symptoms often lead to physical stress and heightened involuntary responses. Biofeedback can help treat common symptoms of drug withdrawal, such as anxiety, depression, chronic muscle pain, and restlessness.
Biofeedback machines record bodily functions and display them back to the patient. For instance, someone’s heart rate might look like a pulsing light or image on a computer monitor. If the light is pulsing quickly, the recovering addict knows they need to use stress-relieving techniques to lower their heart rate. The pulsing light or image on the screen will slow down accordingly as heart rate slows.
Biofeedback Therapy Exercises
|Mindfulness Meditation||An exercise focused on releasing negative emotions and thoughts through peaceful concentration.|
|Progressive Muscle Relaxation||An exercise in which recovering addicts focus on releasing tension in over-tight muscles in the body, 1 muscle group at a time.|
|Guided Imagery||An exercise directing thoughts toward soothing, positive images and scenarios to relax the mind and body.|
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EEQ therapy, also known as “neurofeedback,” is a subset of biofeedback therapy that attempts to calm overexcited brain activity. Over time, continued use of drugs and alcohol can disrupt normal brain wave patterns. This irregular brain activity is linked to anxiety, depression, and other emotional issues that might trigger relapse.
Neurofeedback, a subset of biofeedback, can help restore brain waves back to healthy, pre-addiction levels.
Coupled with other addiction treatment therapies, neurofeedback can give recovering addicts the coping skills to avoid relapse. Contact a treatment provider to find a treatment center.
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Biofeedback And Other Addiction Treatments
Biofeedback therapy is usually administered by a medical professional with specialized equipment. Specialized biofeedback smartphone apps can be used at home to supplement supervised therapy sessions. On-site therapy sessions typically last 30 minutes to an hour. Someone with a mild addiction might only need 10 biofeedback sessions to see results. More severe addictions can require up to 50 sessions.
Biofeedback therapy is noninvasive. Those who experience unpleasant reactions to addiction treatment medicines might find biofeedback an effective alternative. Biofeedback therapy is also helpful for addicted women recovering while pregnant since it is a medication-free treatment.
Biofeedback and neurofeedback therapy can give recovering addicts a psychological edge in beating addiction.
Understanding how the mind and body are physically affected by addiction — and how to modify those effects — can help recovering addicts feel in control of their recovery. Biofeedback therapy can be effective in treating mental health disorders that co-occur with alcohol and drug abuse. Some of these include attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
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Inpatient and outpatient drug rehab programs offering biofeedback therapy can help those recovering from addiction better understand their treatment needs. Biofeedback therapy integrates well with other treatment options like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). This treatment also pairs well with other alternative recovery techniques like art and music therapy.
Many treatment centers offer a comprehensive addiction treatment plan that includes biofeedback therapies. To learn more, speak with a treatment provider today.
Ashish Bhatt, MD, MRO
Doctor of Addiction Medicine
Learn about Dr. Ashish Bhatt
Dr. Bhatt has been Addiction Center's Medical Content Director for more than three years, providing his expertise to ensure quality and accuracy.
Doctor of Addiction Medicine
Expert in adult and child psychiatry
Over 20 years of professional experience