Post Traumatic Stress Disorder – PTSD
PTSD is an anxiety disorder caused by being exposed to a traumatic event, which is then often relived after the event, with feelings like guilt, isolation and irritability, difficultly sleeping and concentrating. Various events can lead to different traumas. From being bitten by a dog, an accident, to war, working as first responder collecting human remains or police officers repeatedly exposed to details of child abuse.
Everyone suffering from PTSD experiences different symptoms at various levels, regardless of the nature of the traumatic event(s) or the age of being exposed. The symptoms can appear immediately after the event, or many years after.
It is believed that PTSD symptoms persist when the sufferer has not yet come to terms with the emotions the initial trauma caused. Because the memories and emotions can be strong and painful, it is natural to want to avoid them, especially for people who are not used to or comfortable with acknowledging their emotions. But the further they are pushed away, the worse the PTSD will get.
Neurofeedback was first used to help symptoms of PTSD in the 1980’s. This study published in 1991 compared two groups of Vietnam veteran PTSD sufferers – one received Neurofeedback brain training and the other didn’t. The Neurofeedback group showed significantly greater reduction in symptoms. 2.5 years after the training, PTSD symptoms had returned in only 20% of the Neurofeedback group, compared with 100% of the control group:
This 2009 paper describes two more case studies – a Canadian veteran of the Bosnia conflict and a Marine veteran of Iraq, and includes SPECT scans of the brains of one of the clients showing changes in the brain before and after brain training: Othmer, S., & Othmer, S. F. (2009). Post traumatic stress disorder-The neurofeedback Remedy. Biofeedback, 37(1), 24-31.
In the USA a network of hundreds of Neurofeedback therapists are now offering treatment to US Veterans under the banner Homecoming for Veterans
The objective with Neurofeedback training for PTSD is the same as that for psychotherapy: to process the trauma so it no longer affects them in the same way. The difference is that Neurofeedback offers a way to do this without having to talk about uncomfortable feelings or reliving them.
Neurofeedback training for PTSD would start with a training protocol to calm the client physically and mentally. We would then move onto what we call Alpha-Theta training (as described in the study above) which encourages the client to enter a very relaxed state. In this state, any images of the trauma do not normally have the emotions usually attached to them, and the memory is ‘reprogrammed’ as a historic one.
The number of sessions required would depend on the severity of the symptoms and how well the client responds to Neurofeedback, but we would recommend 20 sessions. More case studies can be read here.
To learn more about Neurofeedback for PTSD, visit: www.braintrainuk.com