Is Neurofeedback Safe?

Most patients who are considering neurofeedback ask whether there are any adverse side effects to the therapy. Generally, neurofeedback patients report little to no adverse effects. In fact, many say they feel relaxed and calm during the sessions and experience a new sense of energy after them. However, as with all forms of therapy, it is important to be aware of what to expect from the treatment, along with any potential negative side effects.  

Neurofeedback is the practice of retraining a patient’s brain to operate more effectively, guided by providers, to change the pattern of the brain’s electrical activity, known as brain waves. Brain waves determine our state of consciousness, arousal, and ability to control our minds and bodies. When brain waves are produced at an optimal level, our ability to think, feel, and function is guaranteed. However, when these waves are too fast, too slow, or not produced appropriately in sections of the brain, neurofeedback is used to retrain the brain and correct these issues.  

Here are a few things to keep in mind before beginning neurofeedback. 

  1. Since everyone is different, their reaction to neurofeedback will be different. Most patients typically have little to no adverse reaction to neurofeedback; however, each of us may react differently, at different times to the same stimuli. This is why it is important to trust your own experience. Tell your therapist if you have a reaction to a session, including details, so they can make any necessary adjustments to make you more comfortable. 
  1. Different parts of the brain react differently. Based on your QEEG scan, neurofeedback therapy targets specific locations in your brain to increase or decrease brain wave frequencies. Some areas of the brain may be more challenging to treat than others, but fortunately, a good neurofeedback practitioner knows how to target areas in the brain that are more likely to produce positive results without adverse reactions. 
  1. Changes in brain wave frequency may impact emotions and brain function. When retraining certain areas of the brain to increase the frequency of beta and/or gamma waves, racing thoughts, feelings of panic, and generalized anxiety may temporarily occur. In contrast, when slower frequencies are the goal, patients may experience temporary fatigue and have difficulty concentrating, while some may even have a sense of depersonalization. These reactions should lessen as therapy progresses. 
  1. Side effects may occur due to pre-existing neurological conditions. Before beginning treatment, be upfront with your neurofeedback provider about any neurological conditions you have, such as epilepsy. These conditions can cause side effects other patients do not experience. Neurofeedback therapy may or may not positively impact your condition, but it is important to minimize the potential for adverse reactions as much as possible. 
  1. The more experienced the provider, the lower the risk of side effects. A poorly trained neurofeedback provider who uses obsolete equipment or does not complete a QEEG before training will most likely provide less than optimum sessions that can lead to adverse outcomes. 

Potential side effects patients may experience before, during, or after a neurofeedback session: 

  • Anxiety: This may occur for a number of reasons. The patient may feel nervousness about the electrodes being attached to the head or simply because he or she is nervous about undergoing a medical procedure. Once therapy is underway, these feelings typically dissipate once the patient realizes there is nothing to fear. 
  • Brain fog: While neurofeedback typically reduces brain fog and “spacey” feelings, some patients may find it difficult to focus during and after a session. As therapy continues, however, brain fog will decrease. 
  • Cognitive impairment: Though neurofeedback was developed to correct and enhance cognitive function, if carried out incorrectly, cognitive performance could be adversely affected. 
  • Chattering teeth: Although this is a rare reaction, some patients report that their teeth chatter after therapy as if they are out in cold weather. 
  • Depression: Even though neurofeedback is proven to be a highly successful therapy for depression, in some cases, when the speed of slower brain waves is increased, a sense of depression may occur. This reaction is also usually temporary. 
  • Fatigue: Some patients may experience short-term fatigue after increasing or decreasing the speed of brain waves. 
  • Head pressure: Relatively uncommon, this reaction is sometimes experienced in the section of the brain undergoing training. 
  • Headaches: While training faster waves of higher frequencies or targeting the wrong sections of training, headaches may occur, including full-blown migraines for some patients.  
  • Low energy: High-energy patients seeking treatment to reduce hyperactivity may experience low energy. This change in energy is the positive effect of an adjustment from too much activity to a more normal pace. 
  • Social anxiety: Patients with a history of anxiety in social situations may experience a greater sense of anxiety after a session. 
  • Muscle tension: If therapy is not properly administered, especially when training higher frequencies such as beta and gamma, tension in muscles may occur. 
  • Tiredness: Just like any other form of training or exercise, neurofeedback can be tiring, especially if too much training is attempted too early. 
  • Vocal changes: Some patients report temporary changes in their voices. Possibly due to an increase in anxiety, symptoms should abate once stress has lessened.  
  • Worsening of symptoms: Neurofeedback is prescribed to improve brain functioning by enhancing electrical activity; however, there is a possibility that these changes may cause the symptoms of the original condition to worsen. Once again, this is usually temporary and may be caused by improper training.  

See How Oklahoma Neurofeedback Specialists Can Help 

At Oklahoma Neurofeedback Specialists, our experienced team is ready to help you learn to self-regulate your thoughts and emotions while eliminating the feelings preventing you from living a full, happy life. Book your free consultation today to discuss a tailored treatment plan specific for you, or call us at (918) 313-8555. Let us help get you on the path toward reclaiming your life. 

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