The previous page gave you a general overview of neurofeedback and how it can help. Now, let’s talk about eating disorders and addictions. For most people receiving treatment for anorexia, bulimia, binge eating, compulsive overeating and obesity, the eating and the proper food intake are not the only problems. The same is true with alcohol, drugs, and other addictions. Often we see clients who also struggle with a mood disorder, 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 they have the highest mortality rate. We use quotation marks around the term “mental illness” because we don’t believe eating disorders are “mental illnesses”. The term, “mental illness” is outdated and frankly, a misnomer. All of the disorders we treat are “BRAIN DISORDERS”. They are biologically based malfunctions of the brain that show up in ways that make people think they are “going crazy.” That’s why people need treatment and need to keep an open mind about how combining various treatments can improve recovery rates.
Since eating disorders and addictions and the problems that go with them are “brain disorders”, then re-training the brain makes sense. Neurofeedback allows us to do just that. If you have an eating disorder and/or other addiction, the problem comes in making good decisions for yourself each and every day, even when you don’t want to, even when the addiction voice is telling you to use or have a behavior. We know that our clients really do try to fight the cravings and they really do want to make the “right” decision. This battle inside our heads is exhausting and clients get tired quickly, often leading to feelings of hopelessness and helplessness. They attempt to use all the skills they have learned in life and other treatments, and often the skills are too hard to do or don’t work.
Neurofeedback helps because it re-trains the brain so that you CAN pay better attention and make better decisions for yourself. Neurofeedback re-trains your brain “in the moment”. The reinforcement is almost immediate. That means the brain, which likes the music and responds to the interruptions in the music, is constantly given cues from the computer to get “unstuck” or shift states. This makes it easier for you to feel better and pay better attention so you can consciously make better decisions “in the present moment.”
While there is not yet a lot of research supporting a direct link between neurofeedback and stopping addictive behaviors, there is promising research that links neurofeedback with more restful sleep, more alert awake states and a decrease in depression and anxiety. This in itself allows you to make better decisions for yourself and begin to improve your mind/body connection.
The mind/body connection is usually severed in people with addictions. What does the drug or behavior of choice actually do? It numbs and helps you forget. It allows you to “not feel”. Neurofeedback helps you reconnect with your body and your emotions and it stabilizes your brain. A stabilized and well functioning brain can adapt and adjust to emotions and bodily sensations, even when we don’t like those sensations. A well functioning brain helps you learn that you really can move through the pain and discomfort toward calm and pleasant feelings.
For addictions and all their related issues, we start off the same way for everyone. We conduct a thorough assessment and develop a treatment plan. We discuss that neurofeedback, just like all types of treatment, works only if you are a willing participant. You must have a meal plan and therapist if you have an eating disorder and be in AA and another recovery program if you have an addiction. You must commit to not using for the 24 hours before and after a neurofeedback session. You must agree to participate in the session and complete a behavior checklist between sessions. You must have a willingness to get better, or the treatment won’t work. This is not a passive “fix me” experience. We will not train a starving brain, so your eating needs to be somewhat stabilized.
We work with neurofeedback and addictions specialists across the county. There are a growing number of treatment centers incorporating neurofeedback into their interventions, with excellent results. These treatment centers refer discharged patients to us to continue neurofeedback training when clients return home. We believe that neurofeedback helps people stay in recovery. In Cleveland, we are the only addictions specialists providing neurofeedback in conjunction with other addictions interventions. We work closely with local physicians and other providers.
For more information contact us.