Does Neurofeedback Therapy Work For Depression?

Neurofeedback therapy is an effective treatment for a variety of disorders and conditions, including clinical depression.

Clinical depression is a debilitating mood disorder that persists regardless of life events; in other words, even when things are going well, a person with depression will still feel depressed. Common symptoms include sadness, pessimism, poor focus, hopelessness, lack of motivation, and at times, even suicidal ideation.

The Drake Institute has successfully treated depression without drugs or invasive procedures for the last forty years. Patients who receive neurofeedback therapy report a much higher sense of wellbeing and fewer physical symptoms related to their depression.

If you’d like to learn more about how neurofeedback could help you or someone you know overcome clinical depression, please fill out our contact form or give us a call at 800-700-4233.

What Is Neurofeedback?

Neurofeedback may sound intimidating, but it’s simply another form of biofeedback (i.e., EEG-Biofeedback).

While biofeedback measures bodily functions like hand perspiration, muscle tension, heart rate, and hand temperature, neurofeedback measures brainwaves and brain activity.

With the help of neurofeedback training, patients can learn how to self-regulate their brain activity and overcome the negative symptoms associated with clinical depression.

How Does Neurofeedback Work?

Neurofeedback for depression and anxiety works by helping patients train their own brainwaves in order to achieve symptom improvement.

There are four types of brainwaves that have different functions and show up at different times, including:

  1. Delta Waves
  2. Theta Waves
  3. Alpha Waves
  4. Beta Waves

While all waves serve a vital purpose to our daily functioning, having too many or too few of any given type of brainwave at the wrong time can result in a variety of symptoms – including depression.

The slowest types of brain waves are delta waves. They become predominant primarily when we are in a state of deep sleep. Subsequently, it could be problematic to have excess delta waves during the day since they are not conducive to efficient cognition and daily functioning.

Theta brainwaves have a slightly faster frequency but are still relatively slow. They show up when the brain is very relaxed. If you’ve ever felt yourself “drifting off” or your mind wandering, theta waves are most likely present.

The next fastest frequency waves are alpha waves. They occur during times of alert relaxation. When you close your eyes and relax or meditate, you will have an increase in alpha brainwaves in the posterior regions of the brain.

Beta waves are generally the fastest frequency waves in the brain. They show up when we are actively engaged in a mentally stimulating activity. This could be something like giving a performance, having a debate, or solving a complex problem. Beta waves are necessary for sustained focus on external tasks.

Like the slower frequency waves, alpha and beta waves are crucial for proper brain functioning, but if they occur at the wrong times or are diminished, then the brain won’t be functioning at its ideal capacity.

Neurofeedback training will help you learn to control, improve and strengthen your own brainwave patterns to a healthier state of functioning, which in turn, helps patients overcome their depression-related symptoms. 

Benefits Of Neurofeedback Therapy For Depression

One of the most significant benefits of neurofeedback therapy is that it is non-invasive and drug-free, making it a unique choice for sufferers of depression.

In addition, neurofeedback aims to address the symptoms that accompany depression, like behavioral issues, anxiety, sleep problems, and poor concentration.

By simply addressing the underlying abnormalities and dysregulation in the brain that can contribute to depression, patients can achieve long-term symptom relief without the need for medications.

Is Neurofeedback Therapy Safe For Depression?

Neurofeedback therapy is an incredibly safe treatment for depression. Most common treatments for clinical depression include some form of medication.

Patients who have tried medication know that it can be inconvenient at best and dangerous at worst. Drugs can have unwanted side effects and can take a prolonged period of time to attempt to identify the optimal dosages. Furthermore, even if an effective dose is discovered, this relief may be temporary as some individuals will develop a tolerance to the medications, requiring the dosage to be increased in order to maintain its effectiveness.

Instead of the trial-and-error method of finding the proper medication type and amount, neurofeedback doesn’t require the prolonged process, has a minimal risk of adverse effects, and is able to target the root of the problem (i.e., the underlying brainwave dysregulation), rather than simply trying to compensate for it through the use of drugs.

In addition to being a drug-free approach, there are also no invasive procedures or external stimuli. Instead, neurofeedback simply measures and provides instantaneous feedback to the patient about what is happening in their brain. Using this information, a patient can make desired neurophysical changes in order to improve their own brain performance and health.

What Is Depression?

Clinical depression is different from “feeling depressed.” The latter can occur after a challenging life event, like losing a loved one, and can even happen due to the change in season. While these episodes can still be devastating to the individual, they are typically relatively brief in nature and will often resolve in time without additional interventions.

However, clinical depression is a disorder that is far more pervasive, and for some can be a lifelong condition. These depressive episodes can last months or even years. Furthermore, these episodes may be disproportionate to the instigating trigger, or in some cases, may not be caused by an event or trigger at all.

While depression is associated with brainwave abnormalities, it can present itself through physical symptoms, like weight loss or gain, change in appetite, change in sleeping patterns, behavioral issues, fatigue, and more.

Treating clinical depression successfully through neurofeedback training can help alleviate these physical symptoms along with mental ones.

When Does Depression Occur?

Depression in teenagers and young adults is quite common, but it can show up at any point in a person’s life.

By the time they reach adulthood, up to 20% of people will have suffered at least one major depressive episode. Furthermore, once an individual experiences one depressive episode, they are more susceptible to suffering from additional episodes in the future.

Depression presents in both males and females, especially during adolescence, which has led to the assumption that symptoms like acting out, poor grades, and self-harm are simply “typical teen behavior.” However, these symptoms may, in fact, be the result of adolescent depression.

Screening For Depression

Screening for depression is a bit more complicated than simply taking a test.

Because depression manifests in different ways for different people, it’s tricky to have a one-size-fits-all depression test.

However, experts recommend that children and adolescents go through depression screening, primarily if they exhibit symptoms that we’ll get to in a moment.

The Drake Institute uses several screening instruments, including brain mapping technology, to identify the physiological correlates of depression.

After this comprehensive evaluation, our medical director will create a customized neurofeedback protocol for depression that addresses each patient’s unique needs.

Symptoms Of Depression

There are several symptoms associated with depression, and not everyone will have all of them.

Symptoms typically associated with depression include:

  • Irritability
  • Sleep disturbance
  • Changes in appetite or weight
  • Feelings of guilt, anger, sadness, or worthlessness
  • Poor concentration
  • Suicidal ideation
  • Withdrawal from family and friends
  • Lack of interest or inability to enjoy hobbies or other activities
  • Fatigue
  • Hopelessness

How The Drake Institute Treats Depression

The Drake Institute goes beyond traditional depression interventions and seeks to address the root of the issue while bridging the mind-body gap.

Instead of focusing on medication or other invasive procedures, we empower our patients with the skills necessary to achieve long-term symptom relief.

There are two main parts of neurofeedback therapy for depression, which we’ll address below.

Brain Mapping

Brain mapping is the initial process of gathering information about how the patient’s brain functions.

First, 19 sensors are placed on the scalp to record activity throughout the brain. This is entirely painless and non-invasive.

Once the data is recorded, it is compared to “normal” brain activity. From here, our medical professionals can identify areas of the brain that are functioning abnormally and need improvement.

Neurofeedback Therapy

After a successful brain mapping, professionals can create a neurofeedback protocol for depression by targeting those specific areas that are dysregulated and linked to an individual’s symptoms of depression.

For example, if the brain map shows that the patient has too many slow brainwaves at the frontal region of the brain, we can create a regimen to help normalize these brainwaves to higher, more desired, frequencies in order to achieve symptom reduction.

Our focus is always on helping patients with their individual needs, making neurofeedback for depression and anxiety an exceptional choice for treatment.

Contact The Drake Institute Today!

If you want to know more about how neurofeedback works for depression, get in touch with the Drake Institute today. Just fill out the free consultation form or give us a call at 800-700-4233.

Contact Us Today

To get the help you or a loved one needs, call now to schedule your no-cost screening consultation.

dr david velkoff headshot

“David F. Velkoff, M.D., our Medical Director and co-founder, supervises all evaluation procedures and treatment programs. He is recognized as a physician pioneer in using biofeedback, qEEG brain mapping, neurofeedback, and neuromodulation in the treatment of ADHD, Autism Spectrum Disorders, and stress related illnesses including anxiety, depression, insomnia, and high blood pressure. Dr. David Velkoff earned his Master’s degree in Psychology from the California State University at Los Angeles in 1975, and his Doctor of Medicine degree from Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta in 1976. This was followed by Dr. Velkoff completing his internship in Obstetrics and Gynecology with an elective in Neurology at the University of California Medical Center in Irvine. He then shifted his specialty to Neurophysical Medicine and received his initial training in biofeedback/neurofeedback in Neurophysical Medicine from the leading doctors in the world in biofeedback at the renown Menninger Clinic in Topeka, Kansas. In 1980, he co-founded the Drake Institute of Neurophysical Medicine. Seeking to better understand the link between illness and the mind, Dr. Velkoff served as the clinical director of an international research study on psychoneuroimmunology with the UCLA School of Medicine, Department of Microbiology and Immunology, and the Pasteur Institute in Paris. This was a follow-up study to an earlier clinical collaborative effort with UCLA School of Medicine demonstrating how the Drake Institute's stress treatment resulted in improved immune functioning of natural killer cell activity. Dr. Velkoff served as one of the founding associate editors of the scientific publication, Journal of Neurotherapy. He has been an invited guest lecturer at Los Angeles Children's Hospital, UCLA, Cedars Sinai Medical Center-Thalians Mental Health Center, St. John's Hospital in Santa Monica, California, and CHADD. He has been a medical consultant in Neurophysical Medicine to CNN, National Geographic Channel, Discovery Channel, Univision, and PBS.”

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