what neurofeedback can do for trauma recovery
When we talk about recovery, it’s essential to pay attention to our most valued part of the body: the brain. For good reason, mental recovery has made its way into the spotlight in recent years, but it’s no secret that stigma, judgement, and overall ignorance is attached to the term. The problem lies in a misunderstanding of the complexity of anxiety, depression, and trauma, as well as a gap in most people’s understanding of the various root causes.Take trauma for example; victims often find themselves unable to heal through talk therapy or medication alone. This is because trauma affects the body at its core, biologically changing the way your brain responds to the world and the environment around you. To target this shift in the brain, treatments like neurofeedback have not only been widely used but seen an extremely high success rate. While the name is surely intimidating, you’d be surprised to learn how simple, natural, and gentle the process of neurofeedback is on the body. The process has been life changing for many and research continues to grow to support its outstanding capabilities.
Neurofeedback desensitizes disturbing emotions and teaches the brain how to relax. It strengthens the regions of the brain that activate the parasympathetic nervous system. This in turn, promotes a state of calm and relaxation. Neurofeedback can also be known as EEG, biofeedback, or neurotherapy. It acts as a natural, non-invasive treatment to improve one’s brain functionality. The process of undergoing a Neurofeedback treatment is actually quite simple, despite its name sounding long and intimidating.
What exactly happens during Neurofeedback?
Patients will often listen to music or watch a pleasant video while a computer measures their brain waves via tiny sensors placed on the head at the start of the session. As you’re listening to the music or watching a video, these tiny sensors are monitoring the brain waves your body is exuding. When the brainwaves are balanced, the computer “rewards” this positive brain activity with cheerful sounds. When your brainwaves get too high, the video you’re watching will dim or the music you’re listening to will lower. Your brain recognizes this as negative feedback and begin to crave the rewarding, positive feedback versus negative. After experiencing both positive and negative feedback your brain will naturally want to strive for balance. The training neurofeedback provides helps teach your brain to function at an optimal level, making you less vulnerable to anxiety and depression.
Other benefits of Neurofeedback Include:
Neurofeedback is used for a variety of reasons, but they all fall under the broad umbrella of mental recovery. Some patients might try neurofeedback to help anxiety, depression, or sleep disorders. However, neurofeedback is commonly used to treat mental trauma and PTSD. This is largely because the feedback is able to desensitize people to disturbing emotions or images which is often a side effect of PTSD or mental trauma.
PTSD stands for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. It is an anxiety-based condition and is caused by an exposure to a traumatic event. Victims of trauma are often unable to understand why they can’t move on from intrusive thoughts or memories that are debilitating to their everyday life. Talk therapy can be extremely helpful, but for some it just isn’t enough. This is because trauma is often stored in deeper parts of the brain and nervous system as whole body experiences, not linear narratives. People don’t just remember what happened as a coherent story, they remember how they felt, the fear that radiated through them, the feeling of a racing heart, and how their entire body reacted in the moment.
At its core, trauma takes away a person’s sense of safety and stability by activating the amygdala - the part of the brain that responds to basic signals about fear and safety. Here, memory is stored as a lived experience with feelings and physical sensations. This is why neurofeedback can be valued over talk therapy, to target the root of the problem and train the brain to adjust back to a more average state.
types of neurofeedback
There are two types of neurofeedback that seem to be especially helpful for trauma patients based on clinical research:
ILF (Infra-Low Frequency)
This form of neurofeedback trains the slowest brain waves that are involved in regulating the brain’s stress response. If this response isn’t regulated, the brain can be easily triggered by the smallest events. Patients will often experience a change in their heart rate, muscle tension and body temperature as they move into a calmer state during treatment.
This type of training encourages alpha and theta brainwave activity. Both are associated with introspection and relaxation. After alpha-theta sessions, patients often find they have more insight into their emotions about a particular event without feeling overwhelmed or stressed.
Neurofeedback has become a saving grace to many, and sheds light on new ways to recover for those who struggle with traditional forms of trauma therapy. There are deep biological reasons for trauma being as powerful over the body as it is, neurofeedback is a way to take control over your brain, your body, and your past experiences.