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Panic Disorder - Web Based Biofeedback Shows Promise

posted 08:54 PM EST, Tue January 19, 2010
Panic Disorder - Web Based Biofeedback Shows Promise © Photo Credit: Jim Linwood

Researchers in Taiwan say that web based biofeedback therapy seems to work well for those with panic disorder, allowing people to gain control over initial feelings of apprehension without descending into panic.

Panic disorder sufferers get trapped in a negative cycle. Feelings of apprehension trigger physiological changes such as an increased heart rate and an increased skin temperature – and these physiological responses (which can feel like the start of a panic attack) increase apprehension further, casing increased physiological symptoms.

Taiwanese researchers at the National Cheng Kung University wondered if they could help panic disorder sufferers gain control over this negative cycle towards panic using biofeedback techniques and web based delivery of services.

They developed a finger ring instrument that measures skin temperature. This instrument connects to a personal computer, and via the web, with a doctor who monitors this physiological data as well as self reports of symptoms. Patients also learn biofeedback relaxation techniques, and are taught to use these techniques as a response to physiological signs of apprehension (as displayed by the finger ring instrument). With the help of the instrument, in time, patients can learn to use relaxation techniques to gain control over physiological changes in the body caused by stress and apprehension, and by doing so, break the negative cycle towards panic.

The researchers say they’ve tested the home computer biofeedback device on 10 patients. Lead researcher Vincent Tseng described the results, saying, “After receiving the muscle relaxation program, patients could feel the difference between relaxation and tension, and learned the skill of relaxation. The…patients had fewer panic attacks and had improvement in Panic Disorder Severity Scale (PDSS).”

The researchers say that a larger scale trial is now underway in Taiwan and say that they hope to eventually develop technology that lets people perform self-diagnostic biofeedback via a mobile computing device.

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