The following is an excerpt about neurofeedback and PTSD from an article I wrote titled NeurOptimal® and Anxiety. You can download the full article here.
NeuroOptimal® Neurofeedback and PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder)
Most people think of military veterans when they think of PTSD, but it can happen to civilians who have never seen a war. Natural disasters, being personally attacked, many things can result in post-traumatic stress. Those who suffered long-term abuse as children can also have PTSD-like conditions.
With NeurOptimal® training, those with PTSD generally find their anxiety and depression decreasing. Nightmares, flashbacks, and avoidance of situations that may trigger reactions can melt away. It can be a smooth ride or a bumpy ride, but it’s rare to not see substantial progress. As always, we’re not targeting symptoms. We’re letting the brain see what it’s doing and then choose what to do with the information. All those unpleasant reactions to the past are highly uncomfortable energy drains. The central nervous system apparently sees that and uses what it learns to change itself.
A few years back, I had a client who had gone through several surgeries as a child and as a teenager. The surgeries were needed to successfully repair a congenital heart condition. Marilyn had a supportive family who helped her through the surgeries, and she thought that she was fine, that there was no lasting effect.
Marilyn didn’t connect her early history with the fact that she avoided doctors. She wasn’t getting regular checkups of any kind, and if she was ill she tried to tough it out on her own. She didn’t question this. She saw it as “just the way it is.”
One night when Marilyn was in her thirties, she found herself in the local emergency room because of abdominal pain so severe she couldn’t just endure it. It was a busy night in the ER and it was a while before she was attended to. She was given a CT scan and left in a curtained off bed waiting for the results. Eventually she was told she had an inflamed appendix. Surgery was scheduled for the next morning. It was successful, and Marilyn’s physical recovery proceeded well.
But something else was going on. Marilyn was regularly awakened during the night by a body shaking with fear. She was having nightmares she didn’t understand. The dreams featured bright lights and strangers whose faces she couldn’t see. The loss of sleep was affecting her at work.
Marilyn didn’t want to see a doctor. In fact, because of her automatic avoidance of the medical world, it didn’t even occur to her. But knowing NeurOptimal® was a training, not a treatment, made it okay.
Quite quickly, her sleep improved. Sleep is so important a priority that the brain will often make changes there first. Marilyn felt considerably better just because of that. The nightmares decreased in frequency and intensity.
Then one night Marilyn had a dream she couldn’t wait to tell me about. In this dream she was in the hospital having her appendix removed. She was in an operating room, but she was a small girl. The child Marilyn began to wail for her mother, but her mother didn’t come. Then she saw herself as an adult walking into the OR. Adult Marilyn lay down next to the little girl and put her arms around her. “It’s okay. I’m here and I’ll take care of things. I’ll make sure you’re safe.” Marilyn woke at that moment. She was in tears, but they were tears of relief.
Marilyn said to me, “It’s as if my body remembered those old surgeries in a way I didn’t. I think the fear I was feeling after the appendectomy was old fear from when I was a child. The dream took the fear away!” Marilyn’s central nervous system used the training well.
If you have questions about neurofeedback and PTSD or anxiety in general, please ask either here on the blog or email me confidentially.
Catherine Boyer, MA, LCSW
New York Neurofeedback