Addiction and Mental Health

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Heart Rate Variability Biofeedback

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Heart Rate Variability Biofeedback

by Julie Myers, PsyD, MSCP

Licensed Clinical Psychologist in San Diego;


Biofeedback is a commonly used method to teach individuals voluntary control of physiological functions.   Specific biofeedback techniques include electromyography (measures muscle tension), galvanized skin response (measures sweat response), electroencephalographic (measures brain waves), skin temperature, and heart rate variability biofeedback (synchronizing heart rate and breathing).  Using biofeedback, an individual receives feedback about his/her own physiological state and learns methods to control these physiological states.

Heart rate variability biofeedback (HRVBF) teaches people how to regulate their own heart rhythm and rate to increase heart rate variability (HRV), which directly exercises the body’s physiological control mechanisms.  HRV is the measure of the rhythmicity of the heart, in its complexity and amplitude of the heart beat.  High HRV is recognized as a sign of healthy heart functioning and as a measure of autonomic activity.  Using HRVBF to sync breathing and heart patterns, an individual can learn how to breathe in a way that strengthens the parasympathetic response, thus creating a calmer mind-body state.

Decreased heart rate variability has been observed in those disorders related to autonomic dysregulation, substance use disorder, and some affective spectrum disorders, including fibromyalgia, depression, and anxiety.  HRVBF has been used for a variety of physiological and psychological disorders, particularly stress and stress related disorders, which are often directly or indirectly related to substance use disorders.  Learning how to regulate emotions that negatively affect heart rate variability, while learning how to regulate physiological signals through HRVBF, can be highly beneficial to those who experience problems with self-regulatory behaviors.

I use heart rate variability biofeedback in my practice to help patients learn a self-empowering way to calm themselves, particularly those recovering from addictive disorders and anxiety conditions, such as panic disorder.  I am Board Certified in Biofeedback.

– Julie Myers, PsyD, MSCP
Copyright (2011):  Julie Myers, PsyD  All Rights Reserved


3 Responses

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  1. I think heart rate variability is extremely important for detecting human mood. The problem is getting this data quickly, which by definition is really hard if not impossible. What is the minimum data sample you would accept as a clinician when trying to assess the HRV of a patient?


    June 15, 2011 at 9:53 pm

    • Unlike those who are concerned with an exact measures of HRV, e.g., cardiologists, I help patients to work toward an objective increase in HRV within the course of a biofeedback session (which generally means across treatment sessions). Patients learn that by increasing their HRV, their mood improves (generally a lowering of anxiety states). My objective is not to to increase HRV per say, but to teach people how to regulate their breathing (which increases HRV) in a way that will control their mood states and allow them to improve emotional regulation.

      In terms of a minimum sampling period for exact measures of HRV, I believe many researchers/MDs use a 24-hour period, however, this is outside of my field of expertise.

      – Julie Myers, PsyD, MSCP, BCB

      Julie Myers, PsyD, MSCP

      June 17, 2011 at 8:52 pm

  2. Nice…..
    Biofeedback machine to make people in pain


    October 30, 2012 at 5:17 am

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