There are many different approaches when it comes to anxiety and depression, but one you may not have considered before is neurofeedback.
What is neurofeedback?
Neurofeedback is a type of therapy where an EEG (electroencephalogram) is used to monitor your brainwave activity. A program will then use cues such as sounds or visuals to help you to train or reorganise your brain signals. This sounds a bit like science fiction, but by doing this people can learn to regulate and improve brain function – and this can help to alleviate symptoms not only of anxiety and depression, but of a wide range of neurological and mental health conditions.
What happens in a neurofeedback session?
A neurofeedback session is not like a normal therapy session. Electrodes are applied to your scalp so that the EEG can monitor your brain waves (don’t worry; the signal is only one way and they can’t transmit anything to your brain!) You may be asked to watch images on a screen or even to play a video game. Whilst this is going on, your practitioner is watching your brain waves, monitoring what is happening.
Whatever you are watching on the screen will also give you a visual representation of what’s going on in your brain. For example, a video you watch may begin to fade out if you are not paying attention. This acts as a cue for you to bring your attention back to the video. The screen may also dim if your brain is producing “anxious” or “depressed” brainwave patterns, encouraging your brain to change its patterns and keep the screen bright.
If I said to you, “change your brain waves so that you are less anxious” you probably wouldn’t have the first idea where to start – but by using neurofeedback you can actually begin to retrain your brain patterns. Over time, using neurofeedback, your brain can create new habitual patterns.
How can you try neurofeedback?
Neurofeedback is not currently available on the NHS, so if you want to try it you will need to find a private practitioner. This article is a great place to start investigating the different types of neurofeedback available, and finding a licensed professional.
Does neurofeedback have side effects?
There have been some adverse side effects recorded when it comes to neurofeedback. These include increased anxiety, mania, nausea, fatigue, hypersomnia, mood swings, depression and even seizures. Side effects from neurofeedback are usually down to mistakes or lack of competence on the part of the operator – so it is really important to ensure you are seeing someone who knows what they are doing.