Neurofeedback Side Effects

Uncover the truth about neurofeedback side effects and make an informed decision.

Neurofeedback Side Effects: What You Need To Know

In the world of healthcare, we often come across new and innovative treatments that claim to have remarkable results. One such treatment is neurofeedback therapy, which involves using advanced technology to train the brain and improve its functioning.

Neurofeedback is a training technique that teaches individuals how to consciously alter the electrical activity (brain waves) in their brains. This method is based on the premise that certain individuals, especially those with psychological conditions like ADHD, might have suboptimal brain wave patterns in specific regions.

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The aim of neurofeedback is to correct these patterns, thereby enhancing mental performance. While many view neurofeedback as a safer alternative to medications, which can have side effects, neurofeedback itself is not without potential side effects. However, most of these side effects are not severe and can often be mitigated by working with a skilled neurofeedback practitioner.

In this article, we will explore the potential side effects of neurofeedback therapy and how to minimize them. We’ll also examine why these side effects occur and when you should contact your clinician for further guidance.

By understanding the risks versus benefits of neurofeedback and how to prepare for your session, you can decide whether this treatment is right for you or your loved ones.

Key Takeaways

  • Neurofeedback therapy provides real-time feedback on brainwave activity to improve brain function and has shown promising results in treating mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression, ADHD, and PTSD.
  • Potential side effects of neurofeedback therapy include headaches, fatigue, insomnia, and dizziness, which can vary in occurrence and severity among individuals and may occur due to underlying medical conditions, individual differences, or therapist errors.
  • A thorough assessment of medical history and current condition before treatment, open communication with the therapist about symptoms, proper electrode placement, gradual introduction of therapy, and monitoring progress throughout treatment are important for preventing and managing side effects of neurofeedback therapy.
  • Patients must weigh the potential risks and benefits of neurofeedback therapy, which include effectiveness in treating mental health conditions, no risk of side effects or drug interactions, and improved relaxation and focus. Effective communication with the clinician, regular assessments, and self-monitoring tools can help evaluate progress and adjust the treatment plan accordingly.

What is Neurofeedback Therapy?

Neurofeedback therapy is a non-invasive technique that aims to improve brain function by providing real-time feedback on brainwave activity. This therapy involves the use of sensors placed on the scalp to detect electrical signals produced by the brain, which are then translated into visual or auditory cues for the patient. By observing these cues, patients can learn to regulate their own brainwave activity and achieve a state of optimal cognitive functioning.

Technology has facilitated the home use of neurofeedback devices, making it possible to have a portable unit anytime from the comfort of your home.

Despite being relatively new in the field of neuroscience, neurofeedback has shown promising results in improving symptoms associated with various mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression, ADHD, and PTSD. Studies have demonstrated its effectiveness in enhancing cognitive performance and reducing symptoms related to stress and mood disorders. Neurofeedback is also an alternative treatment approach for individuals who may not respond well to traditional therapy or medication.

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Neurofeedback is a type of biofeedback specifically focused on the brain’s electrical activity. Imagine a computer screen displaying real-time visuals of your brain waves, represented as undulating lines or colorful patterns. These visuals are generated based on data collected from electrodes placed on your scalp, which detect the brain’s electrical activity. This is a modern version of the traditional Electroencephalogram (EEG) that you could only find at a hospital.

Our brain produces different types of waves, each associated with different states of consciousness:

  1. Delta Waves: Deep sleep.
  2. Theta Waves: Meditation, light sleep, and deep relaxation.
  3. Alpha Waves: Relaxed alertness, calmness.
  4. Beta Waves: Active, analytical thought.
  5. Gamma Waves: High-level cognitive processing.

Using the visual feedback from the computer screen, individuals can learn to influence and modify their brain wave patterns consciously. For instance, if someone wants to achieve a meditative state, they would aim to increase their theta waves. The real-time feedback helps them understand when they’re successful and when they need to adjust their approach.

While neurofeedback provides a direct visual representation and feedback mechanism, other tools can be used in tandem to influence brain waves:

  1. Meditation: Specifically targets theta waves. By focusing on one’s breath or a particular mantra, individuals can enter a deep state of relaxation, increasing theta wave production.
  2. Self-hypnosis: A trance-like state where individuals are more open to suggestions. It can be used to modify old habits by accessing and influencing the subconscious mind, often targeting theta waves for deep suggestibility.
  3. Positive Affirmations: These are positive statements repeated to oneself to challenge and control negative thoughts or self-doubt and foster positive change. These affirmations can be more deeply ingrained when combined with the relaxed states achieved through meditation or self-hypnosis.

While neurofeedback therapy is generally considered safe, potential side effects need to be considered. These include headaches, fatigue, insomnia, and dizziness. It is important for patients undergoing neurofeedback therapy to be aware of these potential side effects and discuss any concerns they may have with their healthcare provider.

Potential Side Effects of Neurofeedback

Adverse reactions to this form of treatment may occur, including headaches, fatigue, sleep disturbances, or emotional discomfort. Despite these potential side effects, many individuals have reported positive outcomes from neurofeedback therapy. It is important to note that the occurrence and severity of side effects vary among individuals and depend on factors such as age, health status, and the specific type of neurofeedback used.

While there is limited research on the long-term effects of neurofeedback therapy, studies have shown that clients generally report high levels of satisfaction with this treatment. In fact, some individuals continue to experience improvements in symptoms even after completing their sessions. This suggests that any potential short-term side effects are outweighed by the long-term benefits that can be achieved through this form of treatment.

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In the next section about ‘why do side effects occur?’, we will explore some possible reasons why adverse reactions may occur during neurofeedback therapy. By understanding these underlying factors and taking appropriate precautions to minimize their impact, maximizing the benefits of this promising treatment modality while minimizing any potential risks is possible.

Why Do Side Effects Occur?

The occurrence of potential adverse reactions during neurofeedback therapy can be likened to a bump in the road on the path toward achieving long-term benefits. Side effects may occur due to various reasons, including underlying medical conditions, individual differences in response to treatment, and therapist errors. It is important to understand why side effects happen to prevent them from hindering progress.

The causes of side effects during neurofeedback therapy are diverse and complex. Sometimes, patients may have undiagnosed medical conditions that affect their brain function and make them more susceptible to adverse reactions. Each patient responds differently to treatment depending on their unique physiology and previous experiences. Also, therapist errors such as incorrect electrode placement or poor technique could lead to anxiety or unwanted reactions from a sensitive patient.

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Before starting treatment, therapists must thoroughly assess the patient’s medical history and current condition. This evaluation should include any relevant psychological or physical issues that could impact their response to therapy. By considering these factors and adjusting the treatment plan accordingly, therapists can minimize the likelihood of adverse reactions. Neurofeedback therapy is mostly monitoring the brainwaves. It is not invasive. It is the therapy that follows that many times may cause reactions in the patient. —for instance, applying Cognitive Behavioural Techniques or prolonged mindfulness practice.

While side effects may present challenges during neurofeedback therapy, they are not insurmountable obstacles onward long-term benefits for patients. Understanding why they occur helps prevent them from interfering with treatment progress, while prevention efforts help minimize risks before beginning treatment.

How to Minimize Side Effects

To minimize the side effects of neurofeedback therapy, there are several points to consider.

Proper electrode placement is crucial in ensuring the therapy is targeted to specific areas of the brain without causing any discomfort or unwanted effects.

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The gradual introduction of therapy can also help patients adjust and avoid overwhelming their brains with too much stimulation at once. Trying to modify the brainwave activities can be stressful for some sensitive individuals.

Finally, monitoring progress throughout treatment can provide valuable insights into how the patient is responding and allow for adjustments as needed. Using neurofeedback therapy should be a pleasant practice, similar to meditation and yoga.

Proper electrode placement

Effective neurofeedback relies heavily on precise and consistent electrode placement, which can significantly impact the success of the treatment and ultimately influence patients’ results.

Electrode placement tips include ensuring that electrodes are properly cleaned and positioned to maximize signal strength while minimizing artifacts. Thanks to technology, modern devices are wearables and can be comfortably placed on the head.

Gradual introduction of therapy

To minimize the occurrence of side effects, a gradual introduction to neurofeedback therapy is recommended. This involves starting with short sessions and gradually increasing the duration as the patient becomes more comfortable with the therapy. Additionally, it is crucial to ensure that patients feel at ease during sessions to prevent any discomfort or anxiety that may exacerbate any potential side effects.

When monitoring progress during neurofeedback therapy, it is vital to keep track of any changes in symptoms or improvements observed by both patients and therapists. By doing so, adjustments can be made accordingly for optimal results without causing any harm or discomfort to patients.

Monitoring progress

Ironically, monitoring progress during neurofeedback therapy can be a challenge without the use of this same therapy. This is because the effects of neurofeedback are often subtle and gradual. However, tracking improvements is vital to ensure that adjustments are made for optimal results. Clinicians will typically conduct regular assessments to evaluate progress and may also provide self-monitoring tools for patients to track their progress. These tools can include symptom checklists, mood diaries, or rating scales.

In addition to formal assessments, clinicians may also rely on subjective reports from patients regarding changes in symptoms or improvements in quality of life. Many modern devices and applications come very well-equipped with evaluation tools to measure progress and effectiveness.

Patients need to communicate any changes they have noticed since beginning neurofeedback therapy so that their treatment plan can be adjusted accordingly. By closely tracking improvements and adjusting the treatment plan as necessary, patients can achieve significant gains in symptom reduction and overall well-being.

When to Contact Your Clinician

In the event of experiencing any adverse effects during neurofeedback therapy, it is essential to communicate with your clinician promptly. Your clinician can help you manage side effects and adjust the treatment protocol to minimize discomfort.

It is also important to keep in mind that some mild side effects are common during neurofeedback therapy, such as temporary headaches or fatigue after a session.

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However, suppose you experience severe or persistent side effects that interfere with your daily life, such as severe headaches, nausea, dizziness, or emotional distress that lasts beyond a few hours after a session. In that case, it is crucial to contact your clinician immediately. Delaying communication may worsen the symptoms and delay recovery.

Risks vs. Benefits of Neurofeedback

When considering the potential risks and benefits of neurofeedback, clinicians need to take into account individual patient needs and goals. While some may argue that there are significant risks associated with this treatment method, others maintain that the benefits outweigh any potential drawbacks. Ultimately, the effectiveness debate surrounding neurofeedback should be carefully weighed against each patient’s unique situation.

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To better understand the risks vs. benefits of neurofeedback, consider these sub-lists:


  • In rare cases, patients have experienced seizures or other adverse reactions during treatment.
  • Some individuals may find the process uncomfortable due to prolonged periods of stillness or noise exposure.
  • The cost of neurofeedback can be prohibitive for many patients.


  • Neurofeedback is effective in treating a range of mental health conditions, including anxiety, depression, ADHD, and PTSD.
  • Unlike medication-based treatments for mental health disorders, neurofeedback does not carry the risk of side effects or drug interactions.
  • Patients who undergo neurofeedback often report feeling more relaxed and focused after treatment.

Patients must weigh the potential risks and benefits when deciding whether to pursue neurofeedback as a treatment option. By working closely with their clinician and carefully evaluating their own needs and goals, individuals can make informed decisions about whether this approach is right for them.

How to Prepare for Your Neurofeedback Session

To optimize the outcome of your neurofeedback session, it is important to adequately prepare beforehand by following these guidelines.

First and foremost, relaxation techniques can be extremely beneficial in helping you de-stress before your session. This can include deep breathing exercises or meditation. By calming your mind and body beforehand, you will be better able to focus during the session.

In addition to relaxation techniques, mental preparation can also play a key role in ensuring a successful neurofeedback session. It is important to come into the session with an open mind and positive attitude. Remember that this is a process that takes time and patience but has the potential to improve your overall well-being greatly.

What to Expect During Your Neurofeedback Session

The process of a neurofeedback session involves various stages that can help improve one’s mental and emotional well-being. During the session, you will be connected to sensors that measure your brainwave activity. These measurements are displayed on a computer screen, allowing your therapist to identify brain areas that may require attention.

One of the main benefits of neurofeedback is its ability to help you learn how to regulate your brain activity. This can improve focus, reduce anxiety, and improve overall mood. Neurofeedback is an effective treatment for conditions such as ADHD, depression, and PTSD.

Finding ways to relax during the process is important to get the most out of your neurofeedback session. Relaxation tips may include deep breathing exercises or visualization techniques.

It is also helpful to remember that any thoughts or feelings that arise during the session are normal and should not be judged or suppressed. By remaining open and curious about these experiences, you may gain deeper insight into your mental processes and develop greater self-awareness.

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Neurofeedback harnesses the power of real-time brain activity visualization to help individuals achieve a theta wave state, a realm of deep relaxation and heightened suggestibility. Within this state, individuals can listen to empowering affirmations, effectively eliminating entrenched habits and phobias. By replacing old, limiting programming with positive and empowering codes, neurofeedback facilitates a transformative journey, enabling individuals to craft a life characterized by happiness, progress, and success.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can neurofeedback therapy be used for children and adolescents?

Neurofeedback therapy is a child-friendly approach that has been proven to be effective in addressing developmental disorders. The therapy utilizes real-time feedback to teach the brain how to function optimally, leading to improved cognitive and behavioral outcomes.

Research suggests that neurofeedback therapy can help children with ADHD, autism spectrum disorder, anxiety, depression, and learning disabilities. Additionally, because it is non-invasive and drug-free, it may be a more appealing alternative for parents who are concerned about the potential side effects of medication or other treatments.

Overall, neurofeedback therapy offers promise as an effective intervention for children and adolescents struggling with developmental disorders.

Is neurofeedback therapy covered by insurance?

When it comes to neurofeedback therapy, insurance coverage can vary depending on the provider and the individual’s specific policy. Patients must check with their insurance company about coverage options and cost considerations before undergoing treatment.

While some insurance plans may cover a portion of the cost, others may require patients to pay out-of-pocket. Despite potential financial challenges, neurofeedback therapy has shown promising results in treating various neurological conditions, making it a worthwhile investment for those seeking alternative treatment options.

Ultimately, individuals should weigh the potential benefits against the financial costs and decide whether neurofeedback therapy is right for them.

How long does it typically take to see results from neurofeedback therapy?

The average timeline for seeing results from neurofeedback therapy varies depending on several factors, including the severity and complexity of the presenting issue, as well as the individual’s level of engagement and commitment to the treatment process.

However, many clients report experiencing benefits within the first few sessions, such as improved sleep, reduced anxiety or depression symptoms, increased focus and concentration, and more balanced mood regulation.

As treatment progresses over time, individuals may notice additional improvements in their cognitive functioning, emotional regulation skills, and overall quality of life.

While results are not guaranteed for everyone who undergoes neurofeedback therapy, many individuals find it a safe and effective alternative to traditional mental health treatment.

Are there any contraindications for neurofeedback therapy?

Neurofeedback therapy is a promising treatment option for many individuals, but certain medical conditions may be contraindicated.

Discussing your medical history with a trained neurofeedback practitioner before beginning any treatments is important.

Some potential risks of neurofeedback therapy include headaches, fatigue, and increased anxiety. However, these side effects are typically mild and short-lived.

Overall, neurofeedback therapy has shown to be a safe and effective treatment option for a variety of conditions, but it is important to carefully consider any potential risks or contraindications before beginning treatment.

Is it possible to do neurofeedback therapy remotely or online?

Remote neurofeedback therapy or virtual sessions are becoming increasingly popular as technology advances and more people seek alternative forms of mental health treatment.

While some may prefer in-person sessions, remote options allow individuals to receive the benefits of neurofeedback therapy from the comfort of their own homes, regardless of location.

Additionally, virtual sessions eliminate the need for travel time and can provide greater flexibility in scheduling appointments.

With advancements in online communication tools, remote neurofeedback therapy can be just as effective as traditional in-person sessions and may even offer unique advantages such as reduced distractions and increased comfort.

Overall, remote neurofeedback therapy offers a convenient and effective option for those seeking this form of treatment.


Neurofeedback therapy can be a powerful tool for improving brain function, but it’s important to understand the potential side effects that can occur. While most people experience only minor discomfort during treatment, others may experience more serious side effects like headaches or anxiety. These side effects are generally temporary and can be managed with proper care and attention.

To minimize the risk of side effects, working closely with your clinician and following their instructions carefully is important. This may include taking breaks during your sessions or adjusting the intensity of your treatment as needed. If you experience any negative symptoms, it’s important to contact your clinician immediately so they can help you address the issue.

Ultimately, the benefits of neurofeedback therapy far outweigh any potential risks or side effects. By helping to improve brain function and reduce symptoms of conditions like ADHD, anxiety, and depression, neurofeedback therapy offers a powerful way to improve overall well-being and quality of life.

So, if you’re considering this form of treatment, don’t let concerns about potential side effects hold you back – speak with a qualified clinician today to learn more about how neurofeedback therapy could benefit you.

Article in a Nutshell

The article outlines the various aspects of neurofeedback treatment, a form of therapy aimed at improving brain health by monitoring and altering brain wave frequencies. It mentions the efficacy of neurofeedback in adjusting brain patterns, as visualized through a brain map. However, it also notes potential negative side effects such as muscle tension, brain fog, and disruptions in cognitive functions. These effects are often linked to changes in brainwave patterns, especially when transitioning to slower frequencies. The role of neurofeedback providers and specialists is emphasized in mitigating these adverse effects and ensuring the goal of neurofeedback is met responsibly. The article serves as a comprehensive guide to understanding both the benefits and risks of neurofeedback as a medical treatment.

The following academic or scientific resources were used to write this article. They are:

  1. A comprehensive review of neurofeedback system design, methodology, and clinical applications, which discusses the side effects such as anxiety, irritability, abdominal pain, decreased appetite, insomnia, and headache associated with neurofeedback therapy2.
  2. A study on the effectiveness, cost-utility, and safety of neurofeedback self-regulating training in patients with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), provides insights into the non-pharmacologic intervention in various mental health conditions3.
  3. An assessment of the effectiveness of neurofeedback training in the context of clinical and social neuroscience can help understand the efficacy measures and manifested outcomes of social behaviors4.
  4. A systematic review of the safety and effect of neurofeedback on fatigue and cognition discusses the overall positive findings and few reported side effects associated with neurofeedback for fatigue and cognitive issues5.
  5. An efficacy evaluation of neurofeedback-based anxiety relief, provides evidence that neurofeedback is effective in many psychiatric disorders that affect psychological variables6.
  6. A discussion on adverse reactions and potential iatrogenic effects in neurofeedback training, which includes instances of iatrogenically developed vocal tics, feeling spacey, evoked traumatic experiences, or incontinence7.
  7. An article from The New York Times discusses neurofeedback therapy for mental health and its acceptance by the FDA for certain conditions, as well as the need for more exhaustive studies to back up its success8.
  8. A study on neurofeedback for cognitive enhancement and intervention and brain plasticity provides evidence that neurofeedback can trigger behavioral and cortical plasticity changes resulting in improved cognitive performance9.
  9. A review of neurofeedback’s efficacy in treating anxiety, supports the use of neurofeedback therapy as a promising new method with stable and lasting therapeutic effects10.
  10. An article from the American Academy of Family Physicians discusses neurofeedback as an emerging mental health therapy, its potential benefits, and the need to weigh these against its expense and accessibility11.
  11. A critical review of the treatment efficacy and clinical effectiveness of EEG neurofeedback, suggests that neurofeedback randomized controlled trials show lower clinical significance12.
  12. A systematic review and meta-analysis investigating the effectiveness of neurofeedback training on motor performance in healthy adults, mentions the side effects reported in some studies13.
  13. A study exploring electroencephalographic infraslow neurofeedback treatment for chronic low back pain, discusses the safety and feasibility of this novel approach14.
  14. A double-blind placebo-controlled neurofeedback study in primary insomnia, which questions the effectiveness of neurofeedback for the treatment of primary insomnia15
  15. An article from the Drake Institute discusses the safety of neurofeedback therapy and the infrequency and transience of negative side effects16.
  16. A systematic review of the safety and effect of neurofeedback on fatigue and cognition, which considers neurofeedback a noninvasive, drug-free form of brain training17.
  17. An article in the American Journal of Psychiatry discusses neurofeedback for ADHD and the lack of evidence supporting its efficacy, raising questions about the continuation of research and clinical use in ADHD treatment18.
  18. A ScienceDirect article on the clinical efficacy and potential mechanisms of neurofeedback discusses the limitations of reference treatments and the emergence of various approaches like neurofeedback19.
  19. A Scientific Reports article on the additive effects of EEG neurofeedback on medications for ADHD, supports additional beneficial therapeutic effects of combining neurofeedback with medications20.

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