Neurofeedback Therapy For Stress: Does It Work?

Neurofeedback therapy is a unique treatment designed to help patients overcome various stress-related disorders, including anxiety, insomnia, and depression.

As a non-invasive and non-drug treatment protocol, neurofeedback therapy is a safe and effective treatment for reducing or eliminating the negative symptoms associated with various stress-related disorders. 

Stress disorders can present in many ways, can include uncomfortable and sometimes even dangerous physical symptoms, including high blood pressure, cardiac arrhythmias, and more. 

Neurofeedback helps patients learn how to reduce their stress levels and, therefore, their physical symptoms as well. Reducing these symptoms, as a result of the patient’s utilizing one’s learned self-regulation abilities developed from the treatments, empowers each patient to live a better quality of life with the ability to diminish the effects of stress on them. 

For over forty years, the Drake Institute has been pioneering the use of neurofeedback therapy for stress disorders, ADHD, traumatic brain injury, insomnia, Autism Spectrum Disorder, and more. 

By integrating state-of-the-art technologies, neuroscience, sciences of Medicine and Psychology, we can create customized treatment protocols for every patient that walks through our doors, and since 1980 we have continued to help patients improve their quality of life and achieve reduction or elimination of symptoms. 

If you or anyone you know are suffering from a stress-related 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. 

So just how does neurofeedback therapy work for stress? This article will address how neurofeedback works to reduce stress long-term.


What Is Neurofeedback?

Neurofeedback is a type of biofeedback and is sometimes called EEG-Biofeedback. 

While biofeedback uses sensors to measure and record physical functions like hand temperature and heart rate variability, neurofeedback uses sensors to record and measure brainwave activity.  

Neither biofeedback nor neurofeedback uses any invasive procedures or medications to achieve the desired result. Instead, neurofeedback therapy is a training/treatment procedure where the patient learns to produce more functionally appropriate brainwave patterns that help them gain better control over their emotional and mental states, reduce negative symptoms, and improve cognitive functioning/performance.

How Does Neurofeedback Work?

Neurofeedback training, for stress-related disorders, records and measures brainwave activity. This information is displayed back to the patient through both visual and auditory feedback. This helps patients become aware of how their brain is functioning and enables them to make desired changes to improve any abnormal functioning or “misfiring” of brainwaves linked to symptoms 

There are four types of brainwaves that affect everything from our quality of sleep to our cognitive ability:

  • Beta waves occur at a faster frequency and are most present during activities that require sustained concentration and focus
  • Alpha waves are produced maximally in the posterior region of the brain when one closes their eyes and relaxes or meditates.
  • Theta waves are slower and occur when daydreaming or drifting off to sleep
  • Delta waves are the slowest waves and are responsible for deep sleep 

Neurofeedback therapy aims to help patients regulate their brain’s activity to achieve more optimal functioning. 

For example, neurofeedback training can help patients “shift” their brain’s functioning, when necessary, to the faster brainwave types required for focus, concentration, organization, and follow-through.

Additionally, neurofeedback training can help patients reach a deep state of relaxation, which is necessary for getting a good night’s sleep and waking up feeling refreshed in the morning.

What Is A Stress Disorder?

Some amount of stress is a normal part of everyday life, but too much stress can overwhelm one’s ability to cope and cause health consequences. When stress becomes a chronic state, our body’s physiological functioning can begin to be negatively affected and become more susceptible to developing illnesses. 

Indeed, when living conditions become too stressful, a person might develop a stress disorder. A stress-related disorder is  “psychophysiological,” meaning a change in one’s psychological state will cause a simultaneous change in one’s physiological state and vice versa. 

For example, think of a time when you were nervous or experiencing anxiety in ruminating about a future event, like giving a presentation. This stress can manifest as feelings of “butterflies” in your stomach, sweaty palms, or racing heart. This is a physiologic response to a psychological state of mind. 

Because stress is unavoidable to some extent, the goal of our neurofeedback therapy for stress disorders is to give patients the skills and ability to reduce stress’s negative impact on an individual.

Symptoms of a Stress-Related Disorder

Stress can cause a number of significant physical and psychological symptoms, including:   

  • Aches and Pains
  • Exhaustion
  • Insomnia
  • Headaches
  • Depression
  • Dizziness
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Panic Attacks
  • Digestive Issues

Types of Stress

People can experience different types of stress depending on their situation and ability to cope. The three primary types of stress are Acute, Episodic Acute, and Chronic. Each of these types affects people differently and can happen to anyone.  


Acute stress is a type of stress brought about by recent or near-future events. Acute means that the stress comes suddenly as a direct response to an event. These symptoms generally do not last long and pass when the event in question has resolved.

Episodic Acute

Like acute stress, episodic acute stress appears quickly. However, it also occurs frequently or regularly, sometimes in relation to a general negative outlook on life or a sense of doom. Other times, living or work conditions, an abusive home life, or lifestyle choices could induce episodic acute stress.


Most stress comes and goes; however, stress can become a chronic issue for some individuals, especially if they find themselves in an unsatisfying career or an abusive relationship. 

These kinds of situations can cause individuals to feel isolated, anxious, and hopeless. Unfortunately, people suffering from chronic stress tend to experience more stress symptoms. If you believe you’re suffering from chronic stress, you should take steps to alter your current living situation and seek professional help.

What Are Some Common Stress-Related Disorders?

Stress is a broad umbrella that covers a lot of disorders. Stress can cause disorders such as tension headaches, migraine headaches, high blood pressure, panic attacks, insomnia but it can also exacerbate illnesses or diseases that may not be caused by stress. 

Neurofeedback therapy for stress disorders enables a patient to diminish the impact that stress has on one’s health and emotional well-being. The external stress can still be present but it doesn’t have to be the dominating influence on your health. Below are some of the most common stress-related disorders that we treat at the Drake Institute.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Post-traumatic stress disorder can develop after a person has experienced an event or situation that was frightening, life-threatening, or disturbing. Symptoms of PTSD may not appear for some time after the event took place.

Unless addressed, specific triggers related to the event may cause panic attacks, nightmares, depression, insomnia, and more.

Acute Stress Disorder (ASD)

As with PTSD, acute stress disorder arises from a traumatic event. However, ASD usually begins showing symptoms immediately during the traumatic event or soon afterward. 

ASD should be treated as soon as possible; otherwise, it may develop into long-lasting PTSD.

Adjustment Disorder

A patient with an adjustment disorder can experience excessive emotional or behavioral reactions to new changes or stressful events. 

This type of disorder is most often diagnosed in children and adolescents, though it can be present in adults too. 

Past experiences, natural temperament, and even genetics can affect the symptoms of adjustment disorder, which can include depression, hopelessness, tearfulness, jitteriness, separation anxiety, impaired functioning at school or work,  and behavioral disruptions.

Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD)

RAD is a stress disorder of children and happens when the child does not form attachments with parents, family members, or caregivers. 

Symptoms can begin to appear in infants and include withdrawal, fear, sadness, listlessness, lack of facial expression, no interest in social interaction, and failure to ask for help.

Disinhibited Social Engagement Disorder (DSED)

Disinhibited social engagement disorder is a behavioral stress disorder primarily identified in children. Neglect is likely to be in the child’s history. 

Unlike RAD, which shows a lack of interest in interacting with others, patients with DSED are characterized as uninhibited to meet and interact with strangers. 

They could be extremely friendly with unknown adults and may be willing to leave with someone they don’t know. They can put themselves into a dangerous situation without being aware of the threat.

What Causes A Stress Disorder To Develop?

A stress disorder can develop in a number of different ways. Things like unexpected negative events, work pressures, the death of a loved one, or a general feeling of anxiety can all contribute to the development of a stress disorder. Even mild stress can lead to a stress disorder if the stress is chronic. 

Below are some of the most common causes of stress disorders: 

  • Being under pressure at work or home
  • Significant or unexpected life changes
  • A lack of control
  • Feeling overwhelmed by responsibilities
  • Working long hours
  • Losing a job
  • Divorce
  • A traumatic experience

Treating Stress at The Drake Institute

Though stress disorders can be challenging to treat with traditional methods, the Drake Institute has been successfully advancing the use of neurofeedback therapy as a stress disorder treatment for over 40 years. 

Our treatments are non-invasive and non-drug, and patients learn how to reduce their stress safely and effectively through learning psychophysiological self-regulation. In addition, our treatments help patients reach a deep “regenerative level of relaxation” that is very difficult to achieve without assistance and is most impactful in successfully treating stress disorders.

Moreover, patients can use the stress-reducing, training methods learned during treatment for the rest of their lives. Thus, long-term symptom relief is possible without follow-up treatments or medications. Learning psychophysiological self-regulation for long-term usage is an additional benefit of our treatments. 

For a more detailed overview of our treatment technologies, please continue reading below:

Brain Mapping

The first step in using neurofeedback to treat stress disorders is to complete a qEEG brain map. 

To map the brain, our staff will place 19 sensors around the patient’s scalp. These sensors record the patient’s brainwaves so analysis by our Medical Director can identify any area of abnormality linked to symptoms.


During neurofeedback treatment, the patient learns to change one’s brainwave patterns to a more desired, functionally appropriate, healthy pattern. Computer technology displays brainwaves on a screen visible to the patient in the form of an image, like an animated car. 

In this example, the car will stay in its lane so long as the patient produces appropriate brainwaves necessary for sustained focus or concentration.  Furthermore, an auditory tone will trigger every half second the car stays in its lane, which further reinforces healthier brain functioning. 

This real-time feedback helps patients learn how to improve their brain’s functioning, and over time, can lead to long-term symptom reduction of a whole host of disorders, including ADHD, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, PTSD, and more.

Benefits of Neurofeedback Therapy for Stress

Neurofeedback therapy is a safe and effective treatment option for stress and stress-related disorders. There are no invasive procedures or medications involved. 

One of the best advantages of neurofeedback therapy is that the results can be long-lasting and require no follow-up treatments. 

By completing our neurofeedback treatment program, patients learn psychophysiological self-regulation to diminish their reactions to stressful situations and greatly improve their quality of life. This can lead to long-lasting improvements in behavior, depression, anxiety, sleep, and other adverse effects of stress.

How Neurofeedback Compares to Drug-Based Treatments

Drug-based treatments are common when it comes to stress and anxiety management. However, prescription medications do not teach self-regulation so medications may only be a short-term solution for some patients. In other words, medications don’t teach patients how to reduce internally their psychophysiological reactions to stress by learning self-regulation. 

Furthermore, once a person stops taking the medication, their stress-related symptoms may return if one is exposed to significant stress again. 

Neurofeedback therapy, on the other hand, aims to enable patients to achieve self-regulation over their mind and body’s reactions to stress.

Is Neurofeedback Therapy Safe for Stress Disorders?

Yes, Neurofeedback therapy is safe for stress disorders, including PTSD. There are no invasive procedures or medications used during the treatment. Instead, brainwaves are simply recorded, measured, and displayed back to the patient so the patient can make desired, healthier changes in brain functioning. This treatment process occurs while our staff is guiding, supporting the patient’s training/treatment process.

Contact The Drake Institute Today!

Stress is a normal part of life, but excessive stress can overwhelm one's ability to cope effectively and cause uncomfortable, disruptive symptoms or a full-blown stress disorder. At the Drake Institute, we use neurofeedback therapy to help patients recover from their stress-related disorders, and empower them to take back control over their health and the quality of their lives.


If you or a loved one needs help with stress-related symptoms, call the Drake Institute today at 800-700-4233 or fill out the form below for a free consultation.


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.”

More About What Makes Drake Institute Unique