Who Developed Biofeedback As A Technique To Treat Combat Stress?

By Margaret Wack

Updated February 14, 2020

Reviewer Aaron Horn

What Is Biofeedback?

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Biofeedback is a technique used to manage stress, illness, pain, and other maladies by monitoring and to respond to bodily feedback. Biofeedback often takes place in a medical setting and can involve the use of devices that monitor heart rate, blood pressure, muscle tension, temperature, brain waves, and other sources of information about the body. Biofeedback has been shown to be useful in treating symptoms of stress, headaches, migraines, urinary incontinence, PTSD, chronic pain, mental health, and other issues. Biofeedback can also be used to improve decision making, induce relaxation, and manipulate the body into raising or lowering temperature or heart rate at will, among many other potential applications.

Who Developed Biofeedback?

Elements of biofeedback have been used for centuries to regulate the body and mind, including practices like meditation and yoga. Modern usage and application of biofeedback began in the late 19th century when scientists began to develop theories concerning bodily homeostasis and the regulation of minute bodily functions, like small muscle movements, breathing, and heart rate.

In the 1960s, interest in the potential uses of biofeedback increased, with the Biofeedback Research Society formed in 1969. Biofeedback was influenced by several different areas of study in science and medicine, including physics, behavioral psychology, human biology, and more. Biofeedback also gained popularity as many people came to an increasing understanding of the connection between the body and the mind.

Throughout the late 20th and early 21st centuries, research on the potential applications of biofeedback has continued, incorporating new technologies and scientific techniques to better study the relationship between body and mind. Technologies such as EEGs and other measuring devices allow scientists and medical professionals to gather more detailed information about the body, and for patients to interpret the signals these machines collect from the body in real-time. Today, the study and application of biofeedback is a thriving discipline in the study of psychology and physiology.

How Biofeedback Works

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Biofeedback works by enabling patients to gain a greater awareness of themselves and their bodies. Biofeedback typically involves the connection of electrical sensors to the body, which then relays information back to doctors and patients alike. More rudimentary forms of biofeedback can focus on more accessible information such as breathing and heartbeat.

Using this information, patients can learn to better understand and control their physical symptoms.

How Biofeedback Is Used To Treat Combat Stress

Biofeedback can be used to treat combat veterans diagnosed with PTSD, or post-traumatic stress disorder, which is often associated with events experienced during combat. In particular, biofeedback can be used to increase heart rate variability, which is associated with enhanced attention and short-term memory.

Biofeedback, in the form of neurofeedback can also be used to help patients regulate emotional responses and practice engaging in calm, relaxed states. Even very small adjustments to physical symptoms of stress and PTSD can result in a meaningful reduction of symptoms, prompting military organizations to adopt this form of biofeedback as a viable treatment option even for very resistant cases of PTSD. Biofeedback has been shown to reduce the symptoms of PTSD in some cases significantly and can complement a variety of other treatment options.

Biofeedback has also been shown to be effective in reducing stress levels in soldiers exposed to combat. Biofeedback techniques can increase mental and psychological resilience, allowing soldiers to learn how to better respond to stressful situations and make decisions under pressure. In one study, soldiers trained in stress-reduction biofeedback methods were better able to perform first aid during a simulated ambush, reflecting how biofeedback allowed them to regulate their emotional and physical responses to stress.

This training can also reduce the mental and psychological load of combat, resulting in a reduced rate of PTSD and other emotional distress among those serving in the armed forces. Biofeedback can, therefore, not only reduce the symptoms of mental distress during and after combat but can also improve mental and emotional fitness regardless of the circumstances. In this way, biofeedback can be used as part of a holistic approach that emphasizes healthy behavior and coping mechanisms in a variety of different areas, including physical, mental, and emotional health.

Other Applications Of Biofeedback

In addition to helping to monitor and reduce stress and PTSD, biofeedback also has a variety of other difference applications, including incontinence, chronic pain, headaches and migraines, and decision-making.

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  • Incontinence - Biofeedback can be used to help treat incontinence in children, women who are pregnant or have recently given birth, and other people who struggle with bladder control and similar issues. Biofeedback can be used to help train and strengthen pelvic muscles, as well as to recognize symptoms of needing to urinate more easily.
  • Chronic pain - Biofeedback can be used to help reduce symptoms of chronic pain, including intensity of pain and associated psychological issues such as stress and depression. Biofeedback is effective at reducing some types of chronic pain, particularly back pain.
  • Headaches and migraines - Biofeedback training is potentially effective at reducing headaches and migraines. Biofeedback training can teach patients how to reduce symptoms and manage pain.
  • Emotional regulation and decision-making - Biofeedback can be used to help regulate emotions and improve decision making. Participants in biofeedback studies can learn how to more effectively regulate their emotions and achieve mental and emotional calm through a deeper understanding of related physical symptoms. In particular, biofeedback has been used to help investors and financial traders make better business decisions. Biofeedback also has a wide range of applications in the sphere of personal life, helping individuals to recognize better and regulate their emotions and actions.
  • Mental health - Biofeedback can be used to help patients manage their mental health. Using biofeedback, patients can learn to reduce symptoms of illnesses such as stress, anxiety, and PTSD.

As illustrated by these examples, biofeedback has a wide range of applications. In addition to those already listed, biofeedback is also used in a variety of other areas, with research being conducted into additional potential uses. As more people research the effects and uses of this unique treatment, biofeedback may have even more applications in the future.

Using Biofeedback To Manage Stress At Home

Biofeedback is traditionally used in a medical setting, often in a hospital or doctor's office and with the supervision and instruction of a medical professional. When used in these settings, biofeedback often involves expensive sensory equipment that allows both doctors and patients to monitor the body's feedback in real-time. This form of biofeedback can often be especially effective in treating otherwise imperceptible bodily elements like temperature, muscle tension, and brain activity.

Even if you don't have access to these devices, however, you can still engage in a simplified form of biofeedback just by listening to the signals your body gives and responding accordingly. Simple methods of biofeedback can include paying attention to and controlling breathing, muscle tension, and heart rate. Other forms of biofeedback can include paying attention to changes in mood, appetite, weight gain, and any other physical changes that may occur. While this information may not be as precisely detailed as the information you might get from a medical professional, it can still be tremendously helpful in trying to better understand your body and the many connections between body and mind.

Benefits Of Biofeedback

Biofeedback has been shown to help treat or reduce the symptoms of many different kinds of illnesses. Also, biofeedback is noninvasive and has few requirements. Biofeedback may allow people to reduce their dependence on medication and is a viable alternative when people are temporarily unable to take medication, such as during pregnancy. Biofeedback is also very safe and offers few risks in terms of long-term treatment. The strategies used during biofeedback sessions can be broadly implemented in everyday life.

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Biofeedback can also help people to feel more in control over their bodies and their health. By learning to listen to small signals in the body, patients can effectively regulate physical and emotional symptoms. This can help patients to feel less disconnected and more embodied. It can also give real relief to those suffering from chronic conditions such as pain, migraines, and mental health issues.

Treating Stress

If you're experiencing an unhealthy amount of stress and anxiety, you could benefit from biofeedback as well as a variety of other treatments. Stress and anxiety can have many adverse side effects and can have a significant impact on your quality of life. The good news is that stress and anxiety are very common, and can be treated and managed in a variety of ways.

Common treatments for stress and anxiety can include medication, lifestyle changes like diet and exercise, and therapy. If you think you might be suffering from stress and anxiety, professional therapists can help you to manage your anxiety, develop coping strategies, and improve your mental health. With BetterHelp's diverse selection of online therapy services, you can reap the benefits of therapy from the comfort and privacy of your own home. Get in touch today to learn more!

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