Anxiety & OCD

Journal of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry Clinics of North America, Jan. ‘05

Neurofeedback with Anxiety and Depression

D. Corydon Hammond, PhD, ABEN/ECNS
Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, University of Utah School of Medicine

› This article was significantly adapted/edited by David Dubin, MD for accessibility to a general public.

Compelling evidence exists for a neurophysiologic basis for obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Research also indicates that there are functional brain abnormalities associated with anxiety and panic disorder [28–30] and post- traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) [31].

Other conditions that benefit from neurofeedback include epilepsy, attention deficit disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and learning disabilities and have included up to 10-year follow-ups of patients [57].

Neurofeedback for anxiety

A review on the neurofeedback treatment of anxiety disorders by Moore [58] identifies eight studies of generalized anxiety. The best of these were three outcome studies [59] with phobic (test) anxiety. In each study, the group that received neurofeedback demonstrated significant reduction in test anxiety. In comparison, the untreated control group and the relaxation-training group experienced no significant reduction. In another study, anxiety scores dropped significantly compared with a non-treatment group.

Passini et al [70] used neurofeedback to compare 25 anxious patients (23 of whom were alcoholics) with a control group of 25 anxious patients (22 of whom were also alcoholics), most of whom were seeking treatment at a VA hospital. The neurofeedback group had significant changes in anxiety. An 18-month follow-up had virtually identical results of lower anxiety, which indicated that neurofeedback changes were enduring [71].

Neurofeedback for depression

Although reports to date on using neurofeedback for depression are case reports, they provide encouragement that neurofeedback may hold potential for treating mildly to severely depressed patients. There are numerous clinical reports of neurofeedback efficacy for depression.

Clinical experience and further case examples

Based on clinical experience with more than 25 patients with mild depression, in which most of them have been followed for between 6 and 24 months, neurofeedback has seemed to be successful in producing significant and enduring change in approximately 80% of the patients. There have been no published research or clinical reports on the use of neurofeedback in a pediatric depression.

There are widespread clinical reports of improvements in mood among children treated with neurofeedback for ADHD, which further supports the idea that neurofeedback may be effective with childhood depression. Neurofeedback seems to involve minimal risk of side effects or adverse reactions [84], and it is less invasive than antidepressants or trans-cranial magnetic stimulation.

Summary

As reviewed in other articles, Neurofeedback has considerable research support in areas such as uncontrolled epilepsy and attention deficit disorder and ADHD. In evaluating the studies in the overall broad area of the neurofeedback treatment of anxiety disorders, neurofeedback qualifies for the evidence-based designation of being an efficacious treatment [62]. When separate anxiety disorders are individually evaluated, the areas of phobic anxiety, generalized anxiety, and PTSD each qualify for designation as being a probably efficacious treatment.

Neurofeedback is an exciting, cutting-edge technology that offers an additional treatment alternative for modifying dysfunctional, biologic brain patterns that are associated with various psychiatric conditions.