An Overview of
Biofeedback is a complementary and alternative medical treatment which uses a variety of methods to measure the
body’s processes, with the intent to help you become aware of these processes and to learn to gain conscious
control of them. Generally, biofeedback involves using a device to aid your awareness of your own responses to
stimulus. The theory is that by recognizing the ‘feeling’ of a bodily process, you can work to gain physical
control of it.
The theory was proposed in the 1960s by Neal Miller, a Yale University neuroscientist who discovered that rats
could be taught to control their heart rates, pulse and other bodily processes once believed to be automatic and
involuntary. Biofeedback has been used to treat a number of conditions, including asthma, incontinence, ADHD,
anxiety, headaches, high blood pressure and cardiac arrhythmias.
The popularity of biofeedback as a treatment for medical conditions has waxed and waned since the 1960s, and it
is currently on the rise again. Its use has been widely accepted as a treatment for incontinence disorders,
particularly bedwetting, and for the control of hypertension in adults. There are also psychiatrists who use
biofeedback as a conditioning tool to help patients deal with phobias.
There are a variety of biofeedback approaches used for various forms of treatment. The most common approaches
measure brainwaves, body temperature, heart rate, pulse and galvanic skin tension. Here's a quick look at some of
- Electromyogram feedback measures muscle tension and is used to treat stress-related illnesses
- Galvanic skin tension biofeedback measures the activities of sweat glands, and is used to treat anxiety
related illnesses like phobias and stuttering.
- Temperature biofeedback measures skin temperature and is used to treat circulatory disorders including high
blood pressure and migraine headaches.
The Evidence In Favor
The strongest evidence of the effectiveness of biofeedback is in the area of bedwetting and other incontinence
disorders, though there is recent research that has shown biofeedback can help people learn to lower their blood
pressure and heart rate. In addition there are small studies and anecdotal reports that biofeedback is useful
- Anger management
- Treatment of insomnia
- Treatment of phobias and anxiety
- Controlling migraines
- Treatment of sleep disorders
- Controlling hunger
- Controlling impulse behavior in patients with ADHD
Criticisms of Biofeedback Therapy
Most criticisms of biofeedback are based on a lack of scientific evidence that it works. In addition, there are
some who criticize it as a uselessly expensive therapy that is used in place of less expensive but just as
effective options such as meditation and relaxation exercises.