How it works
Biofeedback is a new therapy that trains patients to control their stress response by monitoring body signals as they change. Equipment monitors and visualizes the signals and these, coupled with relaxation techniques, help the patient become more aware of when they change and what they need to control.
Gaining control of involuntary stress signals, including heart rate, body temperature and muscle tension, can help control the harmful stress response and symptoms.
What it could help
Anxiety, headaches, high blood pressure, IBS
Little research has looked into the effectiveness of biofeedback in stress management, but what exists suggests it can be effective after a number of sessions. Research suggests that biofeedback teaches relaxation techniques effectively but it is unclear whether the benefits of treatment are due to the effects of the biofeedback device itself. It is also possible that its value comes from spending more time with the doctor or therapist than usual. Importantly, biofeedback has proven effective in children with stress disorders.
What to expect
Biofeedback takes place with a trained therapist, starting with a chat about lifestyle and recent stressors to help you understand your symptoms.
Electronic devices are applied to different parts of the body to monitor the physiological state. Sensors “feed back” the levels in cues such as flashing lights or a beeping noise that the patient can monitor and learn to control.
Relaxation techniques then begin either with the therapist or a tape and you are encouraged to keep monitoring signals to help you become aware of how the levels change and how to control them. Tapes are also given out to practice techniques between sessions.
Biofeedback therapy is generally safe and non-invasive, with no known negative side effects. It is designed to help gain control of involuntary processes inside the body so it may not be for everyone as it takes time to perfect, and it is advisable to discuss any possible treatment with your doctor.
Find out more
Find a therapist
Health professionals from numerous specialisms can be trained in biofeedback. These include psychiatrists, nurses, dentists and physicians, so you may be able to find someone best suited to your condition.
You can find qualified biofeedback practitioners on several websites, including the Association for Applied Psychology and Biofeedback, which also issues biofeedback training certification. There is not much input from British practitioners, any regulation of this training, or a register that biofeedback therapists are associated with.
You can buy a biofeedback machine to use at home for £100 to £200. The cost largely depends on what output you require.
One session of biofeedback will cost between £20 to £60, depending on your therapist.