Side Effects of Neurofeedback Therapy

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Neurofeedback can be a beneficial element of care for people who have been experiencing a variety of physical, mental, and behavioral health concerns. Before you participate in this type of therapy, it is important to understand what the entire process entails, how it can help you, and if there are any potential neurofeedback side effects that you should be aware of.

Why Do People Use Neurofeedback Therapy?

Neurofeedback therapy is an innovative, evidence-based modality that is designed to help people take greater control of how their brain functions. 

During a neurofeedback therapy session, the patient wears a device such as a helmet or headband with electrodes that monitor their brainwaves. 

While the patient is wearing the neurofeedback device, they will engage in an activity, such as watching a video, listening to music, or playing a video game. While this is going on, the therapist will monitor and map their brainwaves.

  • When the patient produces the desired type of brainwave, they will receive some form of positive reinforcement, such as a brightening of the screen they are watching or an intensification of the colors in the video game they’re playing.
  • When undesired brainwaves are produced, a negative reinforcement (such as a dimming or desaturation of the screen) will occur.
  • Over multiple sessions, this process can help the patient learn to generate the desired type of brainwaves.  

There are five types of brainwaves, which are identified by their frequency and amplitude:

  • Delta waves have a frequency of up to 3 Hz. A person’s brain usually produces delta waves when they are in the midst of deep sleep. 
  • Theta waves are generated within the 4-8 Hz frequency range. Waves in this category most commonly occur when a person is daydreaming or has just begun to fall asleep.
  • Alpha waves are in the 8-13 Hz range. They are typically generated when a person is awake and relaxed, often with their eyes closed.
  • Beta waves fall into the 13-30 Hz range. This type of wave is associated with attention, focus, and concentration.
  • Gamma waves can range from 30-100 Hz. The presence of gamma waves usually indicates that a person is engaged in strenuous mental effort, such as trying to solve a problem or learn new information.

Neurofeedback therapy sessions can help people learn to generate different types of brainwaves, depending on what type of problem they have been dealing with. For example, someone who has been experiencing intense anxiety may want to learn how to generate alpha waves, which can help them achieve a more relaxed state.

Neurofeedback therapy has been used to help people who have been experiencing a wide range of concerns, including:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Substance use disorders (addictions)
  • Learning disabilities
  • Headaches
  • Insomnia
  • Autism spectrum disorder
  • Schizophrenia

List of Side Effects From Neurofeedback

It is extremely rare for anyone to experience neurofeedback side effects. Neurofeedback therapy is a noninvasive process that does not involve any medications. For most people, it is a safe and painless service. But few people have experienced some unpleasant effects after taking part in sessions. 

As reported in a July 2001 paper in the Journal of Neurotherapy, the following are possible neurofeedback side effects:

  • Increased anxiety, agitation, and depression
  • Anger and irritability 
  • Panic attacks
  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue
  • Disrupted sleep patterns
  • Incontinence
  • Impaired concentration
  • Temporary disorientation

The common neurofeedback side effects include fatigue, headaches, elevated stress, and slight dizziness or disorientation. 

The good news is that not everyone experiences side effects – and even those who do often only have minor, temporary discomfort.

How Can You Minimize the Side Effects of Neurofeedback?

While it’s rare to experience severe neurofeedback, it is important to acknowledge that it is possible to have a distressing reaction. Here are three tips for minimizing your risk of neurofeedback side effects and having a positive overall experience:

  • Choose a reputable provider – It is difficult to overstate the importance of finding a trusted and experienced neurofeedback therapist. When you work with an experienced professional, they will be ideally prepared to help you minimize side effects and address any other contingencies that may occur.
  • Communicate with your therapist – Before you begin your first session, ask your neurofeedback therapist for their advice on reducing your risk of side effects. If you start to experience any distress either during or after a session, be sure to let your therapist know. They may be able to make certain adjustments to ease your discomfort.
  • Practice self-care – Follow a nutritious diet plan, incorporate regular exercise into your schedule, and get an appropriate amount of sleep each night. These activities can help you build physical and psychological strength, which can in turn prepare you to properly deal with any side effects that may occur as a result of your neurofeedback sessions.

Contact Renewal About Our Neurofeedback Therapy

If you are interested in receiving neurofeedback therapy to address a mental health concern or a substance use disorder, Renewal Health Group may be the ideal place for you. We offer a full continuum of customized treatment services at multiple convenient locations in southern California.

When you receive care at one of our facilities, your treatment team will assess the full scope of your needs and then develop an individualized plan just for you. Based on the information that we gather during your assessment, we can select from a dynamic array of therapies and support services, including neurofeedback therapy, as we craft your treatment plan.

At Renewal Health Group, we understand that every person who struggles with addiction and/or mental illness is impacted in a unique way, and we are committed to providing each of our patients with a truly personalized experience while they are in our care.

To learn more about neurofeedback therapy or any other aspect of treatment at Renewal Health Group, or to schedule a free assessment, please visit our Contact Us page or call us today.

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