When you are stressed, have you ever noticed the following?
- coldness in your extremities
- sweaty palms
- increased heart rate
- muscle tension
- irregular breathing
These are all physical reactions triggered by your brain when it perceives stress. Stress not only impacts us emotionally; it changes our physiology.
Biofeedback Illuminates the Mind/Body Connection
The field of applied psychophysiology is a scientific discipline that aims to understand and modify the interaction between our behavior and physiological processes. Biofeedback is a subset of this field and involves the self-regulation of bodily functions with the goal of improved self-awareness and behavior change.
Biofeedback involves monitoring physiology, typically with the use of specialized sensors and computer software. This data is provided to a person in a helpful way so that he or she can better control how he/she thinks, feels, and moves. Biofeedback is a wonderful technique that demonstrates the powerful connection between mind and body. What we realize is that the mind and body really act as a whole, integrated unit.
How to Control Your Body
All those symptoms noted above are physiological processes that biofeedback trains a person to alter. Biofeedback encompasses multiple modalities that are targeted for a specific bodily function.
• Photoplethysmograph (PPG): measures changes in blood volume in the artilleries and capillaries that correspond to heart rate. Heart Rate Variability (HRV) training is one of the most common forms of biofeedback. Improved HRV is used for many issues, including stress, anxiety, depression, PTSD, addiction, ADHD, hypertension, headaches, insomnia, and chronic pain.
• Temperature: records peripheral skin temperature, a measure of blood flow of the vessels beneath the skin, usually on the hand. Regulating one’s body temperature can reduce symptoms associated with anxiety and stress, migraines, headaches, hypertension and Raynaud’s disease.
• Electromyography (EMG): records electrical activity of muscles from the surface of the skin often used to improve movement dysfunction, muscle tension, and headaches.
• Galvanic Skin Response (GSR): a measure of skin resistance or conductivity via the sweat glands, typically on the palms of the hands. Self-controlled skin conductance can lead to improved self-awareness during stress, emotional reactivity, and hot flashes during menopause.
• Respiration: measures breathing patterns to improve dysfunctional breathing patterns, including hyperventilation. Breath training can lead to a sense of calmness throughout the body and reduces stress symptoms.
• Neurofeedback: records brainwave activity of EEG patterns, allowing a person to monitor and change brain functioning. Neurofeedback is used to reduce ADHD/ADD, anxiety, depression, addiction, and migraine symptoms and to enhance cognitive performance.
How to Start with Biofeedback
Dr. Mazzei, Clinical Health Psychologist, is board certified in biofeedback and has found biofeedback to significantly help with many conditions, such as those noted above. She may use just one or multiple biofeedback modalities, depending upon a person’s symptoms and preferences. If you are interested in starting therapy with Dr. Mazzei, please contact the office at 847-386-8829.
Learn More about Biofeedback
For more information about Applied Physiology, please visit The Association for Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback (AAPB).