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Infra-Low Frequency Training for PTSD: A personal story

by Peter B | January 15th, 2019

My name is Peter B. I have worked the past eight years as an Emergency Department staff nurse. About eighteen years ago, I was attacked by unknown assailants and struck in the head repeatedly with a telescoping steel baton. Showing what I now know to be signs of traumatic brain injury (TBI) and skull fracture (Battle’s sign, raccoon eyes, and a massively swollen occipital region of my skull), I lay in bed for a week recovering, and eventually returned to my life. This event was followed by a series of concussions over a period of a year and a half. Even prior to the attack, I had already been suffering from anxiety and PTSD.

For the seventeen years since that assault, I suffered from severe and worsening symptoms common to those with TBI. Sleep became something I dreaded; twelve hours in bed at night, tossing and turning in states of terror, awakening from unfulfilling sleep at two or three hour intervals with my body aching and screaming with tension, but with my brain seemingly trying to turn itself off. Daytime was consumed with anxiety, depression, and lapses into sleep anytime I sat still for more than ten minutes at a stretch. I suffered cognitive issues as well, with worsening memory, attention and focus problems. The issues with arousal regulation (sleep/awake states becoming indistinct) were to the point that my girlfriend was insistent I be checked for narcolepsy. We’d be watching a movie, or sitting and reading together, and ten minutes in I would be twitching and drooling on myself.

I attempted every treatment I could find. Pharmacology: Ambien for sleep, then Seroquel for sleep, a variety of antidepressants for the mood dysphoria, prescribed stimulants for the sleep and attentional issues. I participated in various cognitive therapy modalities, exercised daily, and maintained a rigorous meditation practice. What I called a meditation practice consisted of sitting quietly, ruminating and attempting to clear my thoughts for the ten minutes before I would fall asleep, inevitably, where I was sitting. Despite all of this, my symptomology progressively worsened over the years since the injuries.

Just over a year ago, a friend suggested I look into EEG-based neurofeedback. I had read extensively about it, but my medical skepticism had kept me away—the claims that the field makes regarding improvement and benefit defied not only my own experiences with other forms of treatment, but also much of what I had been taught in school about brain healing and recovery—particularly with chronic and degenerative sequelae of head injury.

Skeptically, I undertook two initial sessions of Infra-Low Frequency Neurofeedback. I went into the sessions not feeling optimistic or hopeful after so many other failed treatments, but the results were distinct and undeniable. After the second session, I had to fly across country. For the first time in seventeen years, I was awake for the entire duration of the flight!

A year of regular neurofeedback training later, my experience of life has profoundly changed. I sleep at night—all night—and I wake feeling rested. I don’t fall asleep during the day. My anxiety and depression, attentional issues (variously diagnosed as ADD, PTSD, or sequelae of the TBI), are not just improved, but gone. Of course I at times feel worry or sadness, as anyone does, but in general my life feels full of peacefulness, quiet, and enjoyment of the rewards and beauty of being alive. The baseline screaming anxiety and hopeless despair that haunted me for those many years are gone. Not only is the screaming anxiety gone, but I just don’t feel anxious anymore at all. I’ve tapered off all of the medications I was previously prescribed, and feel better than I have since childhood.

Incidentally, despite being athletic and physically active with a normal BMI and normative blood values, prior to neurofeedback treatment my resting pulse was in the mid-90s, and I was sustaining a blood pressure averaging 150/95. My resting pulse now hums in the low 70s, and I maintain a consistent resting blood pressure reading around 115/75.

Despite my deep initial skepticism, I’ve found the results of neurofeedback to be profound and lasting. Words limit my ability to describe the profound changes in my experience of life and the world since gaining access to this modality.

Edited by Siegfried Othmer

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