One of the biggest concerns within the medical community revolves around the best way to treat people struggling with mental health. Since the 1970s, mental health facilities have watched their funding slowly get cut. Since this same period, the number of people with mental health issues needing treatment has increased exponentially.
Mental health disorders have always been treated with psychotherapy or medication. But a third option is neurofeedback, and is slowly growing in popularity.
What is neurofeedback?
Neurofeedback, also known as EEG biofeedback, is a non-invasive procedure in which electroencephalograms (EEG’s) tests are conducted. Sensors are placed on your scalp in order to measure the activity of different brainwaves. The frequencies measured include theta, alpha, beta and delta waves. Doctors at clinics like Leigh Brain and Spine use EEG’s to stabilise brain function. This data helps diagnose and treat neurological issues like epilepsy, strokes or sleep disorders.
Neurofeedback uses the information differently by splitting the frequencies up before amplifying them and sending them back to the brain. The feedback is used by the brain to fix any electrical patterns that are causing mental problems.
The following are some of the mental disorders neurofeedback has been proven to help:
ADD and ADHD
The causes of ADHD and ADD are thought to be linked either to the levels of the neurochemicals dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain, or to the diet of a patient. You can’t test for the neurochemicals except with a spinal tap, and regulating a child’s diet when they aren’t home is difficult. This makes doing research on ADD and ADHD problematic, but neuropathy shows a percentage of patients whose ADD improved.
Whatever the cause, ADD and ADHD patients generally have under aroused brains as well. This is why ritalin and other medications are prescribed. However research has proven patients treated this way usually abuse other drugs later in life. Neuropathy on the other hand doesn’t involve drugs and its efficacy in treating ADD and ADHD are easily quantifiable, making it a reliable alternative treatment option.
Patients in therapy for depression want to just feel better. Luckily there are specific brain waves that relate to feelings of good and bad and how we relate to events in life. Neurofeedback involves asking questions to determine which brain waves help regulate your moods.
Biofeedback is then used to teach your brain how to stay balanced and not react to uncontrollable events. Neurofeedback will help you stay in a state where what is happening won’t cause your moods to fluctuate to one extreme or another. This will eliminate depression as well as any episodes of mania, making it also an option for treating bipolar issues as well.
Autism and Asperger’s
Patients on the autism spectrum or with Asperger’s usually are over aroused by hyper-focus stimulation, sensory overloading, or they find it difficult to process the subtleties of relationships. This causes them to retreat into an almost trance-like state to cope with the overstimulation. Research has shown that these issues respond best to biofeedback that focuses on slower frequencies.
Neuropathy slows down how they process their stimulation so they won’t be overloaded. Communication usually improves first, followed by reasoning ability.
Mental health issues continue to be a huge problem in societies throughout the world. With many people reluctant to see a therapist or try a medication, neuropathy is proving itself as a great third option for those suffering with mental disorders. It is providing patients with an effective treatment for most mental issues, and as it becomes more popular, more clinics are appearing throughout the country.
Peter Wallace has been an advocate for mental health awareness for years. He holds a master’s degree in counselling from the University of Edinburgh.