It sounds a little strange to hook up a set of sensors and think yourself into better health, especially when you're trying to treat a mental illness like depression. However, there is mounting scientific evidence that the practice of biofeedback allows you to do just that in the therapist's office or in the privacy of your own home. Learn how this simple and low impact technique could fit into your larger depression treatment plan.
What is Biofeedback?
Biofeedback is a complex medical treatment that relies on medical tracking equipment to show you how your body is responding to your attempts to calm down and regulate your body's automatic rhythms. There are multiple formats involving different sensors to read information from the various systems of the body like EEG for tracking brain wave patterns, skin temperature sensors for stress, and muscle tension feedback for focusing on pain relief. All the types of biofeedback involve similar exercises for controlling your body's natural rhythms like
- Breathing patterns that slow down the heart and lower blood pressure
- Guided meditations or silent meditation practices
- Active visualization techniques for engaging the imagination
- Stretching and gradual muscle relaxation to relieve lingering stress
- Body scans to encourage you to focus on each part of the body separately.
Meditation and mindful stretching practices are also recommended separately for treatment of mild depression, but they can be even more effective when combined with biofeedback because the sensors allow you to see visual proof that the mental exercises are working.
How Does It Help With Depression?
The mechanism of biofeedback is still not completely understood, but testing has shown a potential reason for the efficacy of treatment involving a heart rate variability sensor. It's believed that tracking and manipulating the body's heart rate and blood pressure level allows a patient to recondition their autonomic nervous system. With enough treatment, this leads to an improvement in the brain's response to stimulus, which in turn can reduce the symptoms of depression. This kind of mind-based method is easy to combine with medications, therapy, and other depression treatments without interference between the various techniques.
Are There Any Side Effects?
For all patients, including those with average to mild depression, there are no significant side effects linked to biofeedback. It's easy to stop the treatment if it becomes uncomfortable or fails to produce any results, so there's little risk to giving it a try if the therapist or doctor overseeing your treatment approves of the idea.
To learn more about this and other depression treatments, get in touch with a therapist like those at Dr Kuris Counseling Centers.