Help and Hope


Everybody gets anxious. Treatment is called for if the amount of anxiety is out of proportion to the problem or lasts too long. Many methods for helping people reduce and control their anxiety have been shown to be effective. Behavioral techniques include relaxation training, cognitive restructuring, and biofeedback. Any form of biofeedback that helps people become aware of their physiological responses as they become anxious and that helps people learn to relax is at least as effective as any other behavioral technique.

This therapy is rated as efficacious (level 4 on a scale of 1 – 5 with 5 being the best).


Why biofeedback would help this problem: There are several different underlying problems which cause abnormal levels of anxiety. Biofeedback helps each for different reasons.

a.) Breathing problems which cause anxiety: Half or more of people who habitually breathe too rapidly with shallow breaths are anxious because of the effects of their breathing on their brains’ chemistry. Most of these people are not aware they have incorrect breathing patterns. These incorrect patterns are easily detected using psychophysiological assessments and are corrected using several types of biofeedback related to helping people normalize their breathing patterns. When the breathing is normalized, the anxiety goes away.

b.) When a person experiences greater levels of anxiety or the anxiety lingers far longer than it should, the body’s normal responses to an emergency situation don’t shut down. This can cause the body to wear out while thinking and memory patterns change. The physiological reactions to anxiety are accurately assessed using psychophysiological recording techniques so both the patient and therapist always know when any therapy is helping and how much. Biofeedback treatments show the patient the abnormal physiological response levels. Patients use this knowledge to recognize when they are becoming abnormally anxious (so they learn to identify when is actually causing the anxiety) and to control their anxiety.

Attention Deficit Disorder/Attention Directive Difficulty

Why neurofeedback would help this problem: Children with attention problems have very specific physiological problems, which can be seen in their brain wave patterns. For example, hyperkinetic kids with concentration problems produce too much Theta waveforms (4-8 Hz) and too little Beta waveforms in some parts of the brain. SMR (sensorimotor rhythm) EEG 12 – 15 Hz is increased with inhibited movement.

A qEEG identifies the parts of the brain generating the abnormal proportions of brainwaves that can be taught to function normally through neurofeedback by teaching the brain to produce the correct (normal) proportions of brainwaves. Theoretically, the more normal the brainwaves are, the more normally the child should behave. Thus, the training’s success is proportional to how well the child learns to normalize his or her brainwaves.

Children who are successfully trained to increase SMR show decreased activity levels. Successful neurofeedback training to decrease Theta while increasing Beta results in increased attention span and increased ability to learn math.

Sensors are pasted onto the scalp over the parts of the individual’s brain/scalp, which are to be trained. The sensors are connected to a computer, which runs a special training program. The training may take 30 to 50 or more sessions for effects to be apparent and lasting.

ADD Adults generally have different brainwave patterns than children have due to brain maturation. The training is the same.

Health Psychology can identify 6 different types of AD/H/D by using the 19 channel qEEG and can differentiate from many problems that appear to be but are not, classic ADD/ADHD.


Why biofeedback would help this problem: Tension headaches are usually caused by muscles in the neck, shoulders, jaws and other facial structures being kept too tense for too long. These muscles may become too tense because some people can not recognize the actual level of tension in painful muscles, because of postural problems while working, over-reactions by the muscles to stress, poor habits, etc. Psychophysiological assessments can identify which muscles are not functioning correctly and what circumstances lead to the incorrect patterns of tension. Biofeedback of muscle tension is used to train people to recognize actual levels of tension and to correct these levels in conjunction with relaxation training. Temperature biofeedback for migraine headaches work through a similar chain of logic. Neurofeedback is often helpful to treat headaches by retraining the too busy, disorganized brain.

Mild Traumatic Brain Injury–The “Missed” Diagnosis

Of all the psychological diagnoses available, it is our opinion that the one that is most commonly misunderstood and misdiagnosed is that of mild traumatic brain injury (MTBI). Mild traumatic brain injury, also called closed head injury or post-concussion syndrome, is a condition where an individual suffers a blow to the head and subsequently develops symptoms.

Although some research suggests that most MTBI symptoms will improve in three or four months, other research shows that in many cases the symptoms will remain for years following even a mild concussion, whiplash, or blow to the head. The inconsistent results are due to varying definitions of MTBI, how the data is gathered, what constitutes ‘real’ symptoms, and perhaps most importantly, the “human factor” the beliefs and biases of the various researchers.

It can be hard for some people to believe that even a mild blow can be the cause of so many symptoms. In an emergency room, physicians are primarily screening for serious brain injuries, and mild brain injuries are generally not noticed. When the patient has been told that they seem fine, but later develop symptoms, other people, the patient themselves, and insurance companies may not consider the symptoms to be from the mild head injury. In addition, the symptoms of MTBI are not specific to only a head injury. Virtually every symptom that can be associated with MTBI, as seen in the lengthy list below, can be due to other disorders. Therefore, if after hitting your head you have been told that you are okay, and the symptoms you notice later are not necessarily associated in your mind with a blow to the head, you may not connect the symptoms with a brain injury. The end result is that sometimes months or even years after a whiplash or blow to the head, MTBI is often not even considered as a possible cause of symptoms. The correct diagnosis is, therefore, “missed” and the person may not be taken seriously, be sent to psychotherapy, or even be thought to be fabricating symptoms.

Listed below are some of the symptoms that are most commonly associated with a mild head injury. Of course you do not need to have all of the symptoms that are listed for a diagnosis of MTBI. Symptoms vary depending on the severity of injury and the parts of the brain that are injured. You will want to determine, has there been an increase in symptoms like these following a whiplash, concussion, or mild head injury?

Common Symptoms Associated With mTBI
* Difficulty figuring out how to do new things.
* Being disorganized in your approach to problems.
* Having difficulty completing activities in a reasonable amount of time.
* Being slow to learn new things.
* Becoming easily frustrated, irritable, and having outbursts of anger or rage.
* Problems with word finding (remembering the right word to say).
* Hypersensitivity to light or sound.
* Problems with concentration and being easily distracted.
* Spacing out and losing your train of thought.
* Problems with short-term memory.
* Becoming more forgetful.
* Increased frequency of headaches.
* Increased impulsiveness, impatience, risk-taking, rudeness, or social impropriety.
* Fatigue.
* Fibromyalgia type symptoms: mental fogginess, difficulties getting restorative sleep, diverse pain.
* Problems with physical balance, dizziness, tremor, clumsiness, or incontinence.
* Having difficulty in being able to be flexible in changing plans or switching from one activity to another.
* Problems reading letters and words.
* Difficulty in understanding what others are saying.
* Confusion in telling right from left, or with puzzles.
* Getting lost easily.
* Being fidgety and having difficulty remaining seated.
* Going from one activity to another without finishing tasks or projects.
* Decreased libido.
* Difficulty with speech, language, or math skills.
* Seizures.
* Sensory problems with: vision, hearing, taste, smell, sensation.
* Emotional difficulties (depression, fear, nightmares).

Seizures, Tic’s, Epilepsy

Why neurofeedback would help this problem: People who have seizures and similar movement disorders produce abnormal brainwaves and too little of other brainwaves. If these people are shown the amount of normal and abnormal waves they are producing and taught to increase the amount of normal ones, seizure activity generally decreases significantly.

Read the original work of Dr. M. Barry Sterman at UCLA and NASA on seizures. 
Spotlight on Dr. Sterman

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