Biofeedback for the Treatment of Anxiety



The most common use of biofeedback over the past 20 years has been for relaxation and stress management.  Health care professionals have long realized the stress, both chronic and acute, can lead to a various anxiety states.  Anxiety states can manifest in a number of ways -- from panic attacks and phobias at one extreme, to performance anxiety and stage fright at the other.  When an individual feels threatened in some way the brain reacts by being in an overly heightened sense of awareness condition.  The problem then begins to compound itself.  The person becomes more and more anxious by observing himself becoming more anxious.  It is this self-observation and self-attention that causes this disorder.  The person begins to notice his heart beating rapidly or feel other autonomic changes and as he pays more attention, the autonomic changes increase.  Anxiety becomes paralyzing.  Panic often becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy because the individual remembers earlier panic attacks.  His fear of having panic attack often causes a panic attack.

Anxiety is one manifestation of a dis-regulated brain.  The condition is often obvious on the EEG screen.  The condition of anxiety is highly responsive to brainwave training.  By teaching the brain to regulate itself better, it subsequently functions better not only in anxiety states but also in life's normal challenges.  Once the brain has been trained to self-regulate, the brain is no longer as vulnerable to the downward and upward spirals of anxiety and depression.

In doing EEG biofeedback training for anxiety, the individual is shown information derived from his own EEG.  Through training, he can bring certain aspects of his EEG brainwave under voluntary control.  The training repeatedly challenges the brain to improve its regulatory process.

As with a lot of other learning, the process of EEG training is largely accomplished at a subconscious level.  After all, we do not generally have any awareness of the mechanisms by which the brain regulates its own activity, but we are aware the brain can be trained.  As the person skill improves the he gains confidence in his ability to control and regulate the various brainwave states.

It has been found that most individuals who undertake the training gain significantly in their ability to control anxiety and panic states.  They can generally do this to the point that these anxious states no longer interfere with the conduct of their normal lives.

After completing the training which may take 10 to 20 sessions (possibly more in severe cases) no continuing willful effort is required to control the anxiety or panic state.  It happens normally, because the person has learned self-regulation.  Since the technique is based on learning, it is unlikely to require follow-up sessions after completion of training.

For information about brainwave biofeedback training for anxiety or panic disorders, contact Rick D. Thomas, Ph.D. (816) 331-0374 or

Copyright © 2008 Rick D. Thomas Ph.D., LLC

All Rights Reserved.
Click here for a map to my practice.