Who Developed Biofeedback As A Technique To Combat Stress?

Medically reviewed by Majesty Purvis, LCMHC
Updated November 7, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Biofeedback is a technique a doctor or therapist uses to manage stress, illness, pain, and other maladies. In biofeedback therapy, a therapist monitors clients' vitals while they respond to bodily feedback using therapeutic coping mechanisms. Biofeedback often takes place in a medical setting. It 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 can treat stress symptoms, headaches, migraines, urinary incontinence, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), chronic pain, and mental health conditions. Biofeedback therapy can also be used to improve decision-making, induce relaxation, and cause the body to raise or lower temperature or heart rate at will, among many other potential applications.

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Learn About Biofeedback For Stress.

Who Developed Biofeedback?

Biofeedback elements have been used for centuries in treating 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 developing theories concerning bodily homeostasis and managing minute bodily functions, like 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, and human biology. It 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 electroencephalograms (EEGs) and other measuring techniques can allow scientists and medical professionals to gather more detailed information about the body. They also allow patients to interpret the signals these machines receive from the body in real-time. 

How Biofeedback Works

Biofeedback enables patients to gain a greater awareness of themselves and their bodies. The process often involves the connection of electrical sensors to the body, which then relay information back to doctors and patients alike. More rudimentary forms of biofeedback can focus on information such as breathing and heartbeat. Patients may learn to better understand and control their physical symptoms using this information.

How Biofeedback Is Used To Treat Stress

Biofeedback therapy is often used to treat those diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In particular, biofeedback may increase heart rate variability, which is associated with enhanced attention and short-term memory.

In the form of neurofeedback therapy, biofeedback may also help clients manage emotional responses and practice engaging in calm, relaxed states. Minor adjustments to physical symptoms of stress may result in a meaningful reduction of emotional symptoms. Biofeedback has been shown to reduce the symptoms of PTSD, in some cases significantly, and it 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. The techniques in this type of therapy may increase mental and psychological resilience, allowing soldiers to learn how to respond better 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 control their emotional and physical responses to stress.

This training may also reduce the mental and psychological load of combat, resulting in a reduced rate of PTSD and other mental health conditions among those serving in the armed forces. In this way, biofeedback can be part of a holistic approach that emphasizes healthy behavior and coping mechanisms in various areas, including physical, mental, and emotional health.


Other Applications Of Biofeedback

In addition to monitoring and reducing stress and PTSD, biofeedback has various applications, including for incontinence, chronic pain, headaches and migraines, and decision-making.


Biofeedback can be used to help treat incontinence in children, individuals who are pregnant or have recently given birth, and other people who experience bladder control and similar concerns. The treatment can be used to help train and strengthen pelvic muscles and help people more readily recognize symptoms of needing to urinate.

Chronic Pain

Biofeedback can reduce symptoms of chronic pain, including the intensity of pain and associated psychological concerns, such as stress and depression. It may be particularly effective for back pain. 

Headaches And Migraines 

Biofeedback training may be effective in reducing headaches and migraines. This type of therapy can teach clients how to manage their emotions during a migraine, reduce stress, and monitor their physical symptoms. 

Emotional Management

Participants in biofeedback studies can learn how to manage their emotions and achieve mental and emotional calm through a deeper understanding of related physical symptoms. Biofeedback also has many applications in personal life, helping individuals recognize and manage their emotions and actions.

Mental Health 

Biofeedback can be used to help clients manage their mental health. Using biofeedback, individuals can learn to reduce symptoms of mental illnesses such as stress, anxiety, and PTSD.

Using Biofeedback To Manage Stress At Home

Biofeedback is most often 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 involves sensory equipment that allows doctors and patients to monitor the body's feedback in real-time. This form of biofeedback can often be effective for noticing otherwise imperceptible bodily elements, such as temperature, muscle tension, and brain activity.

Even if you don't have these devices, you can still engage in a simplified form of biofeedback by listening to your body's signals and responding accordingly. Simple methods of biofeedback can include the following: 

  • Focusing on your breathing
  • Muscle tension and relaxation
  • Heart rate tracking during coping skills for anxiety and stress 
  • Monitoring changes in mood and how they connect with body sensations
  • Identifying where in your body you feel emotions or pain  

While this information may not be as precisely detailed as the information you might get from a medical professional, it may still benefit you 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 illnesses. In addition, it can be noninvasive and may have few requirements. Biofeedback may also allow people to reduce their dependence on medication and be a viable alternative when people are temporarily unable to take medication, such as during pregnancy.

Tracking bodily sensations may also help clients feel more in control over their bodies and health. By learning to listen to small signals in the body, clients may be able to manage physical and emotional symptoms effectively. This process may help them feel less disconnected and more embodied. It can also give natural relief to those going through chronic conditions, such as pain, migraines, and mental health conditions.  

This procedure is often safe and may involve few risks regarding long-term treatment. If you're interested in trying biofeedback, consider reaching out to your primary care physician to discuss the risks and benefits of your case. 

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Learn About Biofeedback For Stress.

Counseling Options For Stress 

If you're experiencing stress and anxiety, you might benefit from biofeedback alongside other treatments. Stress and anxiety can have several adverse side effects and significantly impact your quality of life. However, stress and anxiety are common and can be treated and managed. Common treatments for stress and anxiety can include medication, therapy, and lifestyle changes like diet and exercise.

In addition, a significant body of evidence suggests that online therapy platforms can provide valuable tools to those experiencing symptoms of stress, anxiety, and several other issues. In one study published in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, researchers looked at the usefulness of online cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) when treating symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder. 

Participants reported significantly reduced symptoms of stress after treatment, in addition to decreased feelings associated with depression. CBT works by helping individuals understand and replace the intrusive, negative thoughts that can lead to unwanted feelings and actions, such as those related to stress and anxiety.

With online counseling through a platform like BetterHelp, you can participate in therapy from the comfort of your home via live chat, videoconferencing, or voice call. You may also be able to reach out to your licensed therapist 24/7. You can message them, and they will reply as soon as possible. The mental health professionals available online can give you information and techniques for managing stress and living a balanced, healthy life. 

Counselor Reviews

“Marcia has been helping me navigate a very difficult time in my life. I have noticed my stress and anxiety levels have decreased since working with her. I now have someone qualified to speak to about the things that have been troubling me this year.” 

“I have greatly enjoyed working with Jason. We have met frequently via virtual video meetings over the past several months, and he has been incredible in helping me to address my stress at work, in life, and everything in between, amid a global pandemic. He is very adept at listening, identifying underlying thought processes, discussing issues, and working towards productive solutions. I always look forward to meeting with him, and I would highly recommend Jason to anyone and everyone!”


If you think you might be experiencing stress and anxiety, a licensed therapist may be able to help you manage your anxiety, develop coping strategies, and improve your mental health. Consider contacting a licensed provider in your area or online to learn more about biofeedback or to receive support.

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