Do you feel like you’re living in the past?
Are you constantly hyper-alert?
The symptoms of trauma and PTSD can trigger unwanted feelings such as anxiety, depression, guilt, shame and isolation.
Talk therapy can be helpful in allowing trauma survivors to understand that they’re no longer in danger. Having said that, not everyone is able to speak with a therapist because it’s too painful to relive the traumatic event(s). Talking and reasoning are seldom enough to reverse the changes that occur during trauma to the brain and body.
NeurOptimal® neurofeedback is an evidence-based form of brain training that uses the brain’s natural neuroplasticity, or ability to fix itself, to create new neural pathways. Trauma survivors such as those working on the frontline have noticed an alleviation of their trauma and PTSD symptoms by using NeurOptimal®.
Neurofeedback for Trauma and PTSD
The Shortfalls of Talk Therapy
It’s not merely your mind that remembers what happens. Our bodies remember how they felt or reacted to an external trauma. Trauma is stored in the mind, in deep parts of the body and the nervous system.
Talk therapy is helpful for validating traumatic experiences and providing a safe space to speak about hardship. Yet, talk therapy alone cannot address the emotional and physical memories that are embedded in your body’s biology.
How Trauma Affects the Brain and Body
Even though a traumatic event may have happened years ago, your body remembers it as if it occurred today. This is because there was no timestamp put on the event. As a result, you can experience feelings of instability and a lack of safety when no danger is present.
How Does Trauma Change the Brain?
Trauma activates the amygdala which is the brain’s fight-or-flight switch. The amygdala is part of the primitive part of the brain, the limbic system, and is activated when a threat is sensed. This part of the brain stores information that may not follow a logical story; it is simply trying to protect you.
During talk therapy, we’re using the prefrontal cortex, or the thinking part of the brain. The shortcoming of talk therapy is that the prefrontal cortex isn’t the most effective in communicating with the limbic system. The amygdala is completely formed in the womb, whereas the prefrontal cortex isn’t fully developed until 25. As a result, our relationship to the world is heavily formed by what is felt before we can rationalize. While we can use the prefrontal cortex to reason, it will not change what is felt in the body.
How Does Trauma Affect the Body?
When a traumatic event occurs, the amygdala sends a signal to the hypothalamus, the control centre of the brain responsible for maintaining internal balance by regulating processes. Once a signal is sent to the hypothalamus alerting danger, the autonomic nervous system takes over and brings the body into a state of fight-or-flight.
During the stress response, 1400 changes occur in the body. Some of these include shallow breathing, sweating, brain fog and a rapid heart rate. Our body will begin to pump all the blood to our large muscles so that we can be prepared to act fast. Any processes that waste energy, such as digestion, will begin to slow down or come to a halt. Adrenaline and cortisol are dumped into our body and brain immediately. If there is danger, we have to be able to deal with it promptly.
In the aftermath of the imminent trigger, the amygdala remembers the trauma and our bodies remain stuck in fight-or-flight, leading to an array of symptoms including high anxiety and alertness.
What is Neurofeedback?
Neurofeedback is an evidence-based, non-invasive form of brain training founded by the Clinical Psychologists Susan and Val Brown.
Based on the linear neurofeedback model, Susan and Val Brown created non-linear feedback which provides a feedback loop using the brain’s natural neuroplasticity to correct itself.
Our brain cells communicate through electrical impulses (brainwaves). These brainwave patterns can be disrupted by traumatic events and daily stressors including work, family, social and personal life. As a result, unhelpful thoughts, emotions and behaviours become routine. NeurOptimal® neurofeedback is able to work with the brain’s intrinsic intelligence to alleviate symptoms that are holding you back.
During a neurofeedback session, the brain is provided with several opportunities to self-correct through micro breaks in the music, and be rewarded. Ambient sounds and visuals add to the sensory experience, leaving trauma and PTSD survivors calm and mentally clear.
Since neurofeedback is non-invasive, First Responders and trauma survivors are able to let their brains do the work while they sit back and relax without being re-traumatized.
Is Neurofeedback Helpful with Trauma and PTSD?
By calming the CNS (central nervous system), trauma and PTSD survivors are able to come down from their hyper-aroused state with NeurOptimal® neurofeedback. Consequently, they’re able to think more clearly, respond rather than react, improve sleep quality and lead happier, emotionally-regulated lives.
Several studies have demonstrated the efficacy of neurofeedback for trauma and PTSD. At the same time, neurofeedback is underfunded because it’s competing with the trillion-dollar pharmaceutical industry. However, future studies will help to supplement the current information available to the public on neurofeedback’s benefits for trauma and PTSD.
What Type of Neurofeedback is Helpful for Trauma and PTSD?
There are two different types of neurofeedback on the market: non-linear and linear neurofeedback.
Linear neurofeedback (traditional neurofeedback) requires a practitioner to take a snapshot of the brain with sensors connected to the head from front to back. Unlike non-linear neurofeedback, it pushes the conscious mind to work hard to bring about change when it perceives feedback by instructing the brain what to do through increasing and inhibiting frequencies. This type of neurofeedback involves diagnosis and a practitioner to be present throughout the entirety of the brain training journey. The practitioner’s expertise determines the quality of neurofeedback received.
On the other hand, non-linear neurofeedback meets the brain where it’s at. It takes information from the brain and feeds it back 256 times per second in real time. There’s no diagnosis required or necessity for a practitioner after appropriate education. This provides the customer with autonomy to use the neurofeedback anywhere, anytime. It is also empowering to the client without the diagnostic component because they attain a sense of control over their mental and physical well-being.
Healing is a journey. If talk therapy hasn’t worked for you, don’t give up on yourself. Neurofeedback is an effective way to induce calmness throughout the body whilst allowing the brain to work on its own, reducing the harmful effects of re-traumatization.
Learn more about neurofeedback for trauma and PTSD by speaking with Suzanne or one of her assistants.