Northwest Center for Applied Psychophysiology

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Biofeedback is a process that uses biomedical instruments to measure and feedback physiological information to the person connected to the equipment. The primary goal of biofeedback is to learn or enhance self-regulation. This is done by developing greater awareness and voluntary control over physiological processes that are normally outside the realm of ordinary awareness and voluntary control. Biofeedback always involves a therapist, a client, and monitoring instruments.

Biofeedback is not just relaxation training; it is a process of skill development. The instruments gather objective data regarding signs and symptoms of stress, disease, and injury. Through a process of awareness and skill development, the individual learns to prevent and treat these signs and symptoms facilitating improved health, well-being, and performance.

Biofeedback is used by students to reduce anxiety and improve test performance, as well as by non-students to reduce symptoms of stress and anxiety. It is used by athletes and entertainers to optimize performance. It is also used as a complementary medicine modality in the category of mind-body interventions.

The Association of Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback (AAPB) has formalized criteria for determining the efficacy of biofeedback treatment for various disorders. The evidence for the effectiveness of biofeedback is substantial. The two highest standards of efficacy are met in treating anxiety, attention deficit disorder, headaches, hypertension, temporomandibular disorders, and urinary incontinence. There are numerous other conditions for which biofeedback is judged as being probably effective, however larger scale research studies have not yet been completed as with the previously mentioned disorders. These include alcoholism/ substance abuse, arthritis, chronic pain, epilepsy, insomnia and fecal elimination disorders.

Common types of biofeedback are:

  To Measure: Typical Application:
Blood volume pulse Heart rate and volume of blood in each pulse Anxiety, arrhythmia, hypertension
Electrodermal Sweat gland activity Anxiety, excessive sweating
Electromyography Muscle tension Stress, pain, temporomandibular disorder, headache, torticollis, incontinence
Neurofeedback Electrical activity in the brain Alcohol and substance abuse, epilepsy, hyperactivity, insomnia
Respiration Breath rate and rhythm Anxiety, asthma, hyperventilation, panic
Thermal (skin temperature) Changes in blood flow Anxiety, hypertension, Raynaud’s disease

Northwest Center for Applied Psychophysiology - Stress Free... Naturally!
Lake Oswego, OR