Using Neurofeedback for Addiction: 6 Uses and Ways It Can Help
By Dr. Tamara Roth
What Is Neurofeedback…Really?
Neurofeedback (also called EEG biofeedback) is a non-invasive technique to both read brain waves and give feedback to the brain. The EEG (electroencephalogram) tracks the electrical brain activity. This information is then given back to the patient/brain through auditory or visual input: videos, games, colors, or sounds.
Once this feedback is given to the patient, the phenomenon of “self-regulation” begins to occur. Our bodies and brains are inherently self-regulating systems. However, if we don’t provide a healthy environment for the body and brain to heal itself, it makes it more difficult to occur. Neurofeedback speeds up this process, making our healing from the brain disease of addiction more efficient and effective.
Learn more about neurofeedback and its benefits for people in treatment for addiction. Then, we share six (6) specific aspects of recovery that neurofeedback can aid. Finally, we invite your questions at the end. In fact, we welcome your questions. We’ll do our best to reply personally and promptly to all legitimate inquiries.
Awake State and Deep State Neurofeedback
With just a bit of biofeedback the brain observes what it is doing and seeks a balanced state. For example, if you are walking past a storefront window, catch your reflection in the glass and see you have poor posture, you innately straighten your spine as you walk on. That’s how the brain works. It’s looking for a bit of feedback to regulate itself.
This is called “awake state” neurofeedback.
There is also a “deep state” approach called “Alpha Theta Training” in which the patient vacillates between Alpha and Theta brain waves. Alpha waves produce a state of calm, focus and relaxation. Theta waves produce a more dreamy state. Alpha Theta Training have been compared to being in a continuous dreamy state similar to just before you fall asleep. It’s also similar to hypnosis which is why it’s an effective treatment for trauma and addiction.
How is deep state neurofeedback effective in the treatment of addiction? It’s been said that going between the alpha and theta states creates an opening or a portal into the subconscious where the trauma is stored. And, by accessing the trauma it gets resolved without having to relive or talk about it.
The Addicted Brain, Trauma, and Effects of Neurofeedback
With addiction, brains tend to be either under aroused which causes symptoms of:
…Or over aroused, which causes:
Often, addicts are using drugs to not be in either state. The under aroused addict brain will typically crave stimulants, cocaine, or methamphetamine. While the over aroused brain will crave calming through alcohol, benzos, or opiates. And some brains vacillate between over aroused and under aroused which makes for polysubstance addiction.
It’s also common for alcoholics and addicts to have underlying trauma. This is typically why they use substances to begin with. They are trying to numb the emotional pain.
Q: So, what is trauma?
A: Trauma doesn’t necessarily mean a big, physical, traumatic event occurred. It can also include developmental trauma, which is a common experience for addicts. Developmental trauma includes emotional neglect during childhood and not getting the emotional safety and nurturing that was needed to create a self-regulating nervous system.
Putting it all together, participating in neurofeedback to treat addiction typically includes both awake state and deep state training. These treatments help because neurofeedback can help balance the arousal level. As a result, the addict starts to feel some relief from the dysregulating symptoms. P
6 Benefits Of Neurofeedback Therapy For Addiction Recovery
Patients tend to benefit from using neurofeedback in many ways while treating addiction.
1. DETOX SYMPTOMS
Neurofeedback can be especially helpful in the detox stage of recovery. When a person is going through intense withdrawal symptoms and report feeling like they are going to die, neurofeedback can help calm the entire nervous system and help reduce the nausea, sweating, vomiting, and agitation.
2. EARLY RECOVERY AGITATION
In early recovery – when the nervous system is most agitated and desperately craving the drugs or alcohol – neurofeedback can help a person make it through one more day by regulating brain waves. If the person is in residential treatment, this can make the difference of being able to stay in treatment versus panicking and leaving against medical advice.
3. UNDERLYING TRAUMA
Alpha Theta Training is especially helpful for the addict to heal the underlying trauma which then eases a great deal of emotional pain. Many report feeling a sense of peace unlike they have ever experienced before.
Both awake state and alpha theta help train the brain to be more present and mindful. This makes it much easier for the recovering addict to develop a meditation practice, which is a great tool for recovery.
Neurofeedback helps regulate neurotransmitter production which increases dopamine. Dopamine is responsible for motivation and pleasure. Increased dopamine production will provide more motivation for recovery and staying sober. With more dopamine, there is an excitement for life which is a great motivator for remaining sober.
6. SLEEP REGULATION
Sleep is a critical component to overall health and well-being. Those who are new in recovery tend to have erratic sleep patterns. Within just a couple of sessions, most people report regulated sleep. And many report sleeping better than they ever have in their life. It also reduces and often eliminates nightmares which is significant for those with fear of falling asleep.
Neurofeedback Applied to Addiction
These are just a few of the numerous benefits that neurofeedback provides for those attempting recovery. The list goes on and on to include things such as:
- improved physical health
- lower blood pressure
- reduction or elimination of headaches
- improved symptoms of asthmaoverall attention and focus improvement
…and more. Plus, as research continues to track the outcomes, we are likely to see more and more use of this amazing technology in the recipe for recovery.
Questions about Neurofeedback?
If you have any additional questions about the effectiveness and use of neurofeedback for addiction treatment, please leave them in the comments section at the bottom of the page. We value our reader’s feedback and try to respond personally and promptly to all legitimate inquiries.