• Laura Hagen

How Neurofeedback Can Help You Recover from PTSD

Imagine a world with emotional numbness. A world where threats are perceived everywhere, and you have difficulty maintaining healthy relationships and stable emotional states, can’t concentrate, and can’t sleep. Your world is upside down, and there’s a disordered sense of self-perception, hyperawareness, and reactivity to stress.

If you’re one of the 8 million people in the United States living with PTSD (ADAA), you can imagine this world all too well because it’s your day-to-day life. At times, it may seem hopeless and life futile, but exciting headway has been made in therapy in the form of neurofeedback, a non-invasive form of biofeedback training that can physically change the landscape of a PTSD brain. And with such headway being made, more places like Mindful Ways to Wellness, here in St. Petersburg, FL, are popping up and offering such services - providing hope for those that suffer from the disorder.

The Disorder: PTSD

PTSD word cloud - helplessness, fear, disorder, avoidance, anxiety, depression, flashbacks

PTSD is a mental health condition that stands for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. With it, your whole ability to emotionally function and live in a healthy state will be altered. PTSD begins with trauma, recently experienced or from childhood, and affects the physical structure of the

brain. The trauma could be a life threat or bodily harm to yourself or a loved one (Greenberg, 2018). Neuroscience indicates that the area of the brain in charge of threat detection and response and emotion regulation is malfunctioning in those with PTSD. Thankfully, however, the brain knows how to recover itself from PTSD, and neurofeedback is a therapeutic tool used to help show it how (Psychology Today).

The Therapy: Neurofeedback

Neurofeedback is a form of non-invasive biofeedback that is unique in its ability to show your brain its problems through direct feedback, allowing your brain to fix itself and alter its own activity. It’s all happening in real-time, and it’s a proven way to help your brain function in a healthier state. The direct feedback to the brain comes from a computer-based program that is monitoring the client’s brainwave activity, sending the brain sound or visual signals. The brain then interprets these signals to reorganize and restructure its own neural activity, and in the process, learns to function more optimally.

As a result, there is often an improvement in mental health disorders and a decrease in many neurological symptoms, making it a wonderful tool to use for those with PTSD (Psychology Today). To learn more about the type of neurofeedback system used at Mindful Ways to Wellness, visit our neurofeedback page.

What’s going on in the PTSD Brain

The main difference between those with PTSD and those who do not have the disorder is that those with PTSD have a hyperawareness and reaction to perceived stress, while also having trouble regulating and de-escalating anxiety and anger. The hyperactivity takes place in the amygdala, and the difficulty with anxiety and anger regulation takes place in the medial PFC, or prefrontal cortex (Greenberg, 2018).

The amygdala is the part of the brain responsible for detecting environmental threats, activating the “fight or flight” response and sympathetic nervous system, and storing new memories or emotions related to threats. The PFC is the region responsible for decision-making, attention and awareness regulation, conscious behavior, emotion regulation, fixing malfunctioning reactions, and attributing meaning and emotional impact to events (Greenberg, 2018).

PTSD brain

When there is a perceived threat, the amygdala releases adrenaline,

norepinephrine, and glucose to ready the body to “fight” or “flee.” If the threat lingers, the amygdala sends signals to the hypothalamus and pituitary gland to release cortisol. Meanwhile, the medial part of the prefrontal cortex consciously takes in the threat and decides what to do. It either revs the body up more to fight or flee or calms the body down.

In studies, it has been shown that those with PTSD have increased activity in the amygdala and decreased activity in the medial PFC (Greenberg, 2018). So,