Does Neurofeedback Therapy Work For Panic Attacks?

Neurofeedback is a non-invasive and non-drug treatment protocol used to treat a variety of stress and anxiety-related disorders, including panic attacks. 

For over 40 years, the Drake Institute has been using neurofeedback for the treatment of panic attacks with life-changing clinical success. 

Indeed, with the help of neurofeedback therapy and qEEG brain mapping, the Drake Institute has helped many patients overcome their panic disorders and regain the quality of their lives without being dominated by fear.

In addition, because our treatment programs focus on strengthening the mind-body connection to achieve self-regulation, patients can experience symptom relief long after treatment has ended. 

If you or anyone you know are suffering from panic attacks or the symptoms of a panic disorder, please fill out our contact form or give us a call at 800-700-4233 to learn more about our non-drug treatment options. 

What Is Neurofeedback?

Neurofeedback falls under the general umbrella of biofeedback and is also referred to as EEG-Biofeedback. 

Biofeedback measures physical functions of the body such as muscle tension, hand temperature, sweat gland activity in the fingertips, heart rate variability, and more.

On the other hand, neurofeedback focuses solely on improving the electrical activity in the brain as measured by brainwaves. 

During neurofeedback training, we use sensors to measure and record brainwave activity. We then use these findings to create custom-designed neurofeedback treatment protocols to address each patient’s unique needs and circumstances. 

These treatment protocols help patients utilize their mind-body connection to reach a deeper state of relaxation, and with practice, the self-regulation techniques learned and internalized during treatment can help patients ward off an oncoming panic attack and alleviate the symptoms of a panic disorder. The patient regains control.

How Does Neurofeedback Work?

Neurofeedback works by allowing patients to become aware, in real-time, how their brain is functioning and make desired improvements. 

Indeed, it is this real-time characteristic that allows patients to experience how they can influence their brain’s functioning which is recorded and measured in brainwaves. 

The slowest waves a person’s brain can generate are delta waves. These slow waves are crucial for proper brain functioning and occur predominantly when we are sleeping deeply. If we don’t get enough of these slow waves while we sleep, we could wake up feeling tired and unrested. 

The next slowest waves are theta waves. These slow waves occur when we daydream or start to drift off asleep. But having too much or not enough of these slow waves will keep our brains from functioning optimally. 

Alpha waves are present in the posterior brain optimally when we close our eyes and relax or meditate. Increasing alpha waves is important for decreasing anxiety and stopping panic attacks.

Beta waves are the fastest brainwaves. Beta waves increase when one is concentrating on academic tasks or job assignments. Excessive beta brainwaves are associated with anxiety.   

While all of these different types of brainwaves are necessary, having too many or too few of any of them can lead to some form of cognitive impairment. 

With neurofeedback training, patients can learn to improve and strengthen their brainwave patterns to faster brainwaves when concentration, focus, organization, and follow-through are required.

Conversely, patients can also learn how to “shift” their brain’s functioning into a more relaxed state to reduce the effects of stress and anxiety.

What Is A Panic Attack?

Panic attacks can arise due to an untreated or undiagnosed anxiety disorder or during a stressful event. Panic attacks are acute, meaning they develop suddenly and often without warning. A panic disorder is a chronic condition of regular panic attacks. 

What’s more, a panic attack can occur when an individual perceives a “threat” that’s not actually present in the environment. Just a “thought” can trigger this.. A perceived threat will still cause the individual’s fight or flight response to suddenly activate, which can cause a tremendous amount of stress and anxiety.

Panic attacks frequently result in a person losing their sense of personal safety. When left untreated, panic attacks can incapacitate an individual and cause him or her to develop severe and chronic anxiety, and other stress-related symptoms.

Symptoms Of A Panic Attack

When the fight or flight response is triggered, it sends chemicals through the body and brain to prepare it for either fighting or running away. Without a real threat, the result is still a set of psychophysiological symptoms and an overall sense of foreboding danger, overwhelming fear, or even doom. 

Other symptoms include: 

  • Shortness of breath
  • Heart palpitations or racing heart
  • Chest pain or discomfort
  • Trembling or shaking
  • A feeling of being smothered
  • A choking sensation or lump in the throat
  • Feeling detached from reality or oneself
  • Sweating
  • Nausea or abdominal distress
  • Feeling dizzy, light-headed, or faint
  • Numbness or tingling
  • Chills or feeling hot
  • Fear of losing control
  • Feeling like you’re “going crazy”
  • Irrational fear of dying

What Causes Panic Attacks?

There are several potential causes of panic attacks, but isolating one specific cause is not always possible. Panic attacks happen when the brain misinterprets an event, thought, or physical sensation as a danger and triggers the fight or flight response. Common factors contributing to panic attacks are childhood abuse, environmental stressors (like a demanding job), grief, anxiety, and genetic predispositions. Four primary causes are the following:

  • Family History. A family with a history of stress or anxiety disorders is more likely to have children susceptible to those conditions.
  • While stress is not necessarily a cause for concern in manageable amounts, persistent or extreme stress can trigger the fight or flight response and panic attacks. At the Drake Institute we have helped adult patients, who came to us that were previously very healthy and stable, but under severe and/or persistent stress would develop panic attacks. So even healthy individuals can be vulnerable.
  • Abnormalities In The Brain. Certain dysregulations in the brain can make a person more susceptible to abnormal amounts of anxiety and stress, leading to panic attacks.
  • Substance Abuse. Self-medicating for panic attacks or anything else, with alcohol or other substances, can sometimes prompt even more panic attacks and the possibility of developing a substance use disorder. Likewise, withdrawal from these substances may also provoke panic attacks.

It is important to note that while the above are prevalent factors that can cause panic attacks, the presence of these factors does not mean that panic attacks will 100% occur, and vice versa.

Treating Panic Attacks At The Drake Institute

Over the last forty years, the Drake Institute of Neurophysical Medicine has pioneered the use of biofeedback and neurofeedback as a treatment for various disorders. Integrating computerized technology with the disciplines of medicine, behavioral sciences, and neurosciences, the Drake Institute is able to offer comprehensive, tailor-made treatment for each patient.

Neurofeedback therapy for panic attacks gives the patient a real-time awareness of their brain’s current activity and functioning. With the guidance and support of our staff, the patient will learn to identify and regulate more normally their psychophysiological responses to a supposed threat. Then, as the patient continues their treatment, they continue to learn and improve self-regulation which can enable them to stop or prevent panic attacks. 

The Drake Institute has helped many patients successfully reduce their panic attacks, at times eliminating them entirely. We do this through the use of brain mapping and specialized neurofeedback treatment tailored to the patient.

Brain Mapping

Brain mapping is the first step in our non-drug treatment protocols. During brain mapping, sensors are placed on the patient’s scalp that measure and record brainwave activity. 

The results are then compared to the reference normative database of “normal” or neurotypical brain functioning. This data helps us identify which areas of the brain are experiencing dysregulation linked to symptoms, which we then use to guide neurofeedback training. 


Neurofeedback is a unique type of treatment in that it does not involve any medications or stimuli. Instead, it acts as an instrument to measure how your brain functions and provides this information to the patient in real-time so the patient can make healthy changes to reduce symptoms, improve performance and emotional well-being. 

A thermometer doesn’t reduce fever as it only gives you a temperature reading. Similarly, neurofeedback instruments only give a reading of your brainwave activity, however, it provides a neurophysiological feedback loop for the patient to make desired changes towards more normalized brain functioning to reduce or eliminate symptoms. 

Because this treatment is based on self-regulation, the patient can learn techniques that they can utilize throughout their lives.

Benefits Of Neurofeedback Therapy For Panic Attacks

Neurofeedback provides a preferred treatment for panic attacks, especially where other treatment options have failed. Neurofeedback is also non-invasive and non-drug, so you don’t have to worry about unpleasant and unexpected side effects. 

Other benefits of neurofeedback therapy for panic attacks include improved self-confidence and a feeling of safety, reduced stress, depression, and anxiety, and increased focus and concentration. 

One no longer lives in fear of another panic attack debilitating them at any moment. Perhaps the best benefit of neurofeedback for panic attacks is the fact that it can be sustainable and long-lasting. Indeed, because the patient has control over their treatment and learning self-regulation, they can continue to practice the techniques long after their official treatment at the Drake Institute is completed.

How Neurofeedback Compares To Drug-Based Treatments

Traditional treatment for panic attacks generally includes a combination of medication and therapy. Certain medications can help calm down the individual if they are in the midst of a panic attack or if one is imminent. Other drugs can be used long-term to treat chronic anxiety and frequent panic attacks.

Unfortunately, once a patient discontinues the medication, their anxiety and panic attacks may return without the patient having learned self-regulation to restore balance and calmness. Unless the patient takes steps to change their reaction to stressors, then their vulnerability to panic attacks may persist

Is Neurofeedback Therapy Safe For Panic Disorders?

As a non-invasive and non-drug treatment, neurofeedback therapy for panic disorders is entirely safe. As long as a medical professional prescribes and oversees the treatment program in an appropriate clinical setting, neurofeedback therapy can offer long-term results for an improved quality of life. A study from 2021 reports that neurofeedback training is safe and effective for treating Generalized Anxiety Disorder, of which panic attacks are sometimes an associated symptom.

Contact The Drake Institute Today!

The Drake Institute has helped patients improve their anxiety, depression, insomnia, ADHD, panic attacks, and more.

 We believe in neurofeedback therapy as a safe and effective treatment for various conditions and have seen the positive effects on our patients’ lives. If you or someone you know can benefit from an improved quality of life, free from panic attacks, get in touch with the Drake Institute today! Simply give us a call at 900-700-4233 or fill out the free consultation form.

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“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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