NEUROFEEDBACK: TREATMENT FOR EATING DISORDERS AND OTHER ADDICTIONS
In the previous articles we have seen how neurofeedback works and how it can help. Now let’s talk about eating disorders and addictions. For most people receiving treatment for anorexia, bulimia nervosa, binge eating, compulsive hyperphagia and obesity, eating and proper food intake are not the only problems. The same is true with alcohol, drugs and other addictions. Often we see people who are also struggling with mood disorders, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and other problems that almost always go hand in hand with addictions.
Eating disorders are the most difficult of all “mental illnesses” to treat and have the highest mortality rate. We use quotation marks around the term “mental illness” because we do not believe that eating disorders are “mental illnesses”. The term “mental illness” is outdated and, frankly, an abuse of language. All the disorders we treat are “CEREBRAL DISORDERS”. They are biological dysfunctions of the brain that manifest themselves in such a way that people think they are going “crazy”. This is why people need treatment and need to keep an open mind about how the combination of various treatments can improve cure rates.
Since eating disorders and addictions and the problems that accompany them are “brain disorders”, it makes sense to regulate the brain. Neurofeedback allows us to do just that. If you have an eating disorder and/or other addiction, the problem comes from making good decisions every day, even when you don’t want to, even when the voice of the addiction tells you to use or behave. We know that our clients are really trying to fight cravings and they really want to make the “right” decision. This battle in our heads is exhausting and patients tire quickly, often leading to feelings of hopelessness and helplessness. They try to use all the skills they have learned in life and other treatments, and often the skills are too difficult to do or don’t work.
Neurofeedback helps because it trains the brain so that you can pay better attention and make better decisions for yourself. Neurofeedback trains your brain “in the moment”. It’s almost immediate. This means that the brain, which likes music and responds to interruptions in music, is constantly receiving signals from the computer to shift or change its state. This makes you feel better and keep you busy, allowing you to consciously make better decisions “in the moment”.
While there is not yet much research supporting a direct link between neurofeedback and the cessation of addictive behaviours, promising research links neurofeedback to more restful sleep, more alert awake states and decreased depression and anxiety. This in itself allows you to make better decisions and begin to improve your mind/body connection.
The mind/body connection is usually broken in people with addiction. What does the drug or behaviour of choice actually do? It numbs you and helps you forget. It allows you to “not feel”. Neurofeedback helps you reconnect with your body and emotions and stabilizes your brain. A stabilized and well-functioning brain can adapt and adjust to emotions and body sensations, even when we don’t like those sensations. A well-functioning brain helps you learn that you can really move through pain and discomfort to calm and enjoyable feelings.
How does neurofeedback work?
For addictions and all related problems, we start the same way for everyone. We conduct a thorough assessment and develop a treatment plan. We discuss that neurofeedback, like all types of treatment, only works if you are a willing participant. You need to have a meal plan and a therapist if you have an eating disorder and if you have ACT and another recovery program if you have an addiction. You must make a commitment not to use for 24 hours before and after a neurofeedback session. You must agree to participate in the session and complete a behavioural checklist between sessions. You must be willing to get better, s