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OCD and Neurofeedback

EEG Biofeedback training for OCD

Obsessive-compulsive disorder, or OCD, is an anxiety disorder that generally causes extreme discomfort. Sufferers are often riddled with persistent and recurrent impulses, thoughts and images that are unwanted.

According to the National Institute for Mental Health, OCD affects more than 2 million adults in the United States. Severe cases of OCD can cause an extreme amount of distress, and the disorder can dramatically interfere with a person’s daily life.

What are the types of OCD?

According to the Mayo Clinic, the categories of obsessive-compulsive disorder include:

  • Intrusive thoughts
  • Constant checking
  • Fear of contamination
  • Hoarding

The symptoms of OCD include both obsessive and compulsive behaviors.

Signs of obsession include:

  • Repeated unwanted ideas
  • Fear of contamination
  • Aggressive impulses
  • Persistent sexual thoughts
  • Images of hurting someone you love
  • Thoughts that you might cause others harm
  • Thoughts that you might be harmed
  • Signs of compulsion include:
  • Constant checking
  • Constant counting
  • The repeated cleaning of one or more items
  • Repeatedly washing your hands
  • Constantly checking the stove or door locks
  • Arranging items to face a certain way

Neurofeedback training provides feedback to the brain to modify the brainwaves that are creating the problem with OCD. Neurofeedback reduces the anxiety and stress response that causes obsessive behaviors and thoughts.

Neurofeedback training is simple, painless, drugless, non-invasive and virtually has no harmful side effects.

What is Neurofeedback training?

Neurofeedback Training is a simple, painless, drugless and non-invasive therapy. It trains the EEG or brainwaves using operant conditioning. Operant conditioning uses auditory and visual feedback to reward the brainwaves when they change in the desired direction to relieve OCD or Anxiety. An individual learns to control his own brainwaves through the help of visual and auditory feedback.

How does Neurofeedback work?

Neurofeedback is a way to quantify and train brain activity.
The basic principles of how neurofeedback works are deceptively simple.

Communication between groups of cells in the brain generates thoughts, sensations, actions and emotions. This activity is detectable in the form of brainwaves - electrical impulses generated by your brain activity.

During a neurofeedback session, electrodes detect your brainwaves to see your brain in action. Through operant conditioning, sounds and images on a computer tell you immediately when your brain reaches your goal and when not.

Through this simple method, you learn how to quiet brainwaves associated with anxiety and OCD and to increase brainwaves associated with calmness and optimal brain function. Much like physical exercises strengthen and develop specific muscles, the more your brainwaves are trained the calmer and more relief you will feel.

How does Neurofeedback help with OCD?

Brain scans have shown that people with OCD have abnormal activity in the parts of their brain associated with strong emotions and their reaction to them, and an imbalance of serotonin. With Neurofeedback, we would train the areas of the brain associated with control and emotional reactivity. As the electrical activity changes in the optimal direction so does the brain chemistry. And this is why people begin to need less medication and are eventually able to decrease medication and stop medication completely.

How do we decide what needs to change?

A thorough assessment is done to determine what the difficulties a person is experiencing along with the history of the problem, family history, and an assessment of brain functioning. A quantitative EEG (QEEG) is performed to collect data under different conditions, eyes closed, eyes open, reading and doing a performance task. We look at the results of the way the brainwaves are working, and we run the results against a normed data base that is the same as the person’s age, gender and handedness. We determine a direction for treatment based on the symptoms of the individual and the quantitative electroencephalogram (QEEG).

How long does it take?

The length of neurofeedback training sessions always depends on the condition, age and health of the patient as well as any other health conditions that are present and need supportive treatment. We find that an average number of sessions to get a significant change to occur are around 20-30 sessions. Individuals that have other health concerns need to recognize that Neurofeedback alone cannot do everything and there needs to be a comprehensive understanding and treatment of the overall health problems.

How often can a person do a Neurofeedback session?

A person can get a neurofeedback session as much as twice a day with at least a two-hour break in between. It is recommended that a person try to do neurofeedback at least two or three times a week until the sessions are completed. Results appear to solidify and happen faster when done more frequently. If a person is going off medication it is helpful to do neurofeedback in this way to help with the transition and chemical adjustment in the body. When a person speeds up their treatment they get the results and life changes quicker.