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How Neurofeedback Therapy Can Help Ease Symptoms of OCD

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a common but chronic anxiety disorder that causes you to experience unwanted and repetitive intrusive, upsetting, stressful, sexual, violent, or often frightening thoughts, emotions, urges, fears, images, and/or behaviors. OCD is life-altering in that it can and often does negatively affect your quality of life. This mental health condition can make it hard to complete personal and work tasks.

Contrary to popular belief, it is possible to experience just obsessions or compulsions (excessive or repetitive rituals or routines) or both obsessions and compulsions. Although there is a wide variety of OCD treatments available, not every treatment works for every OCD sufferer. As a result, alternative treatments like neurofeedback therapy have risen in popularity over the last few years.

Studies indicate that neurofeedback therapy, also known as “neurofeedback,” neurotherapy, or neurofeedback training, can be an effective, non-invasive way to help you better manage your OCD symptoms. In this article, we will explore what neurofeedback therapy is, how it works for OCD, and the potential benefits it can provide to people struggling with OCD.


What Are Some Common OCD Treatments?

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is typically treated with psychotherapy (i.e., cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), exposure response and prevention (ERP) therapy, and/or acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), etc.), medications (i.e., SSRIs, SNRIs, etc.), and supplemental OCD treatments, like Impulse Therapy, an online OCD recovery treatment program. Sometimes, other therapies, such as art therapy, music therapy, journaling, and trauma therapies.

What is Neurofeedback?

Neurofeedback is essentially biofeedback. Biofeedback is the measurement or monitoring of changes in bodily processes like one’s heart rate, temperature, respirations (breathing rate), brain activity, etc. Neurofeedback therapy involves using technology to monitor brain function, while providing real-time feedback to the individual to help them gain or regain control over their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. The goal of this therapy approach is to help people with mental health conditions like attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), depression, anxiety, or OCD reduce or alleviate their symptoms and improve their quality of life.

Neurofeedback therapy uses electroencephalography (EEG), a brain scan that measures electrical impulses in the brain. During a neurofeedback session, an OCD sufferer is connected to an EEG machine, which tracks and assesses their brain function (activity). An analysis of the person’s brain function (in graph form) is then displayed on a small computer screen. A therapist then uses the results to create a treatment plan designed to help the individual control their thoughts, emotions, and behavior (brain activity).

For instance, let’s say that you are experiencing severe anxiety, depression, or OCD, well, your therapist would likely use the analysis (graph) to better understand what is happening in your brain. More specifically, they would use this information to determine when your brain is “agitated” or “excited” and when it is “calm” and “peaceful.”

Your therapist would then teach you how to enter this “calm” and “peaceful” state of mind when you start to feel your symptoms coming on. More specifically, a neurofeedback therapist may teach you how to deep breathe, use positive visualization, and “busy” yourself when you start to feel out-of-control, stressed, depressed, or anxious.

Can Neurofeedback Therapy Be Used to Treat OCD?

Yes, neurofeedback therapy can be used to treat OCD.

Remember, the goal of neurofeedback therapy is to teach people how to control their thoughts, emotions, and behavior. More specifically, neurofeedback “tests” help OCD sufferers learn how to regulate and manage their brain activity (thoughts, feelings, and behavior). In the case of OCD, neurofeedback teaches individuals how to control their intrusive and repetitive thoughts, feelings, urges, fears (obsessions) and/or behaviors (compulsions).

This is accomplished by using “positive reinforcement” while the individual’s brain is a “relaxed” or “peaceful” state, and “negative reinforcement,” when their brain is an “excited” or “agitated” state. With repetition, eventually, the OCD sufferer learns how to effectively control their brain activity (thoughts, emotions, and behaviors) by easing their stress and anxiety, and thereby, reducing their OCD symptoms.

Are There Different Types of Neurofeedback? If So, Which Ones Are Used to Treat OCD?

Yes, there are different types of neurofeedback.

The various types of neurofeedback used to treat OCD are listed below:

  • LENS: LENS neurofeedback or EEG biofeedback uses EEG “tests” to measure an OCD sufferer’s brain function (activity).
  • Heart Rate Variability (HRV): HRV biofeedback used neurofeedback to measure an OCD sufferer’s heart rate. After the “test,”an OCD therapist provides “feedback” to the individual on how they can enter into a “peaceful” or “relaxed” state when they become “agitated,” or consumed with obsessions and compulsions. The therapist can also use this feedback to help an OCD sufferer remain in a “peaceful” or “relaxed,” even when they become overwhelmed.
  • Neurotherapy: Neurotherapy or neurofeedback therapy is the therapy part of neurofeedback. This type of therapy uses neurofeedback results to assess an OCD sufferer’s brain function (activity) so an OCD therapist can develop an OCD treatment plan (including “training”) for them. 
  • Neurofeedback Training: Neurofeedback training is actually the “training” or skills taught during neurofeedback therapy or neurotherapy. The neurofeedback results are used to develop a treatment plan designed to “train” or “teach” OCD sufferer’s how to control their brain activity.

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What Are The Benefits of Neurofeedback Therapy for OCD?

Researchers suggest that neurofeedback is an effective treatment for OCD. More specifically, studies indicate that neurofeedback or neurofeedback therapy can help ease OCD symptoms (obsessions and compulsive behaviors) caused by stress and anxiety. Thus, neurofeedback therapy is designed to help OCD sufferers gain more control over their thoughts, emotions, and behavior.

One of the benefits of neurofeedback therapy is safer than other OCD treatments like selective-serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) antidepressants, serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), antipsychotics, or tricyclic antidepressants. Neurofeedback therapy also does not involve “invasive” medical procedures, like electroconvulsive therapy or (ECT). Another benefit of neurofeedback therapy is how fast it works. This type of therapy or treatment works almost immediately, while medications can take between 4-6 weeks to start working.

Neurofeedback therapy can also be “empowering.” Because OCD sufferers gain a greater sense of what is happening in their brain (mind), they are more likely to take steps to get their OCD symptoms under control. Neurofeedback therapy is more likely to work than natural remedies (by themselves) like mindfulness meditation, art therapy, or crystal therapy. However, combining neurofeedback therapy with these remedies appears to increase the effectiveness of them.

Lastly, neurofeedback therapy provides more concrete than other OCD treatments in that it shows real-time measures and provides an analysis (in graph form) that is easy to understand and apply with instruction. Researchers suggest that neurofeedback therapy is a safe, effective, and accessible treatment for individuals who are experiencing treatment-resistant OCD and/or those who are looking for more holistic or alternative OCD treatments.

What Are Some Neurofeedback Techniques Used to Treat OCD?

Neurofeedback can be used to treat OCD in the following ways:

  • Deep Breathing Exercises: Deep breathing exercises can help de-stress an OCD sufferer. Deep breathing exercises can help an OCD sufferer relax and thereby ward-off their obsessions and/or compulsions. These deep breathing exercises may include slow, deep breaths, and breathing from diaphragm.
  • Visualization: Visualization involves thinking about happy times or positive experiences or people when stress or anxiety arises. Thinking of happier times or people can reduce the stress and anxiety associated with OCD symptoms (obsessions and/or compulsions).
  • Progressive Muscle Relaxation: Progressive muscle relaxation is a relaxation technique that involves repeatedly tensing and relaxing the muscle in the body. This practice helps to physically release muscle tension, which in turn helps to relax the mind and body. The result? Less severe and frequent OCD symptoms.
  • Journaling: Journaling involves writing down one’s thoughts, feelings, fears, urges, and/or behaviors in a diary or journal. This technique can help OCD sufferers see patterns in their behavior, so they can take steps to change or stop them. Journaling also helps people with OCD process their OCD experiences. Ultimately, journaling helps “empower” OCD sufferers to make positive changes in their lives.
  • Cognitive-Restructuring: Cognitive-restructuring involves guiding an OCD sufferer through a series of exercises, steps, or activities in an effort to help them challenge and change faulty, unfair, upsetting, negative, inaccurate, and/or distorted thoughts and emotions. The goal of this technique is to help people with OCD change their way of thinking or processing their thoughts and emotions. The belief is that by practicing cognitive-restructuring, people with OCD can gain control over their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.

Note: These neurofeedback techniques are often used to help OCD sufferers process what is happening to them, “relax” and regulate their brain activity.

Is Neurofeedback Therapy Dangerous for OCD Sufferers?

Just like any other treatment, neurofeedback therapy, can be dangerous for OCD sufferers.

However, researchers suggest that neurofeedback is relatively safer with fewer side effects and complications than other OCD treatments like SSRIs, brain surgery, or brain stimulation. Keep in mind that it is still possible for OCD sufferers to experience mild side effects during and/or after each neurofeedback session. These side effects and complications may include headaches, fatigue, moodiness, mental confusion, agitation, dizziness, insomnia, brain fog, or nausea.

What Does The Research Say About Neurofeedback Therapy and OCD?

According to studies, biofeedback and neurofeedback therapy is an effective treatment for OCD, however, more research is needed to determine its long-term effectiveness. A 2014 study suggests that EEG biofeedback can effectively reduce OCD symptoms (obsessions and compulsions) in adults. Similarly, a 2019 study found that adolescents, young and midlife adults, and older adults with depression, anxiety, and stress. may benefit from heart rate variability (HRV) biofeedback. In fact, people who suffer from a mental health condition, like OCD, regardless of age, report experiencing less OCD-related insomnia, a better mood, better cognitive function, and fewer symptoms.

What is It Like to Have Neurofeedback Therapy for OCD?

The best way to determine if a particular treatment, which in this case is neurofeedback for OCD, could be effective for you is to hear real-life testimonies from people who have used this treatment for their OCD symptoms.

  • “I had brief moments of ‘obsessiveness’ that went away fairly early in my neurofeedback therapy. My OCD therapist convinced me that meditations and relaxation exercises (before I started actual treatment) would help enhance the effects/benefits of OCD treatment. Somehow, the obsession I had with food seemed to vanish immediately and that lasted for a couple of days – it was amazing. I had no idea just how out of control and mental it all was until it went away.

    Then…it kind of came back. But I’m okay with that because I’m rewiring a lot of things and I still feel some improvements. I believe that if I felt ‘freedom’ before I will feel it again. But I also believe OCD requires 19-channel training, which is very involved, so it helps to do neurofeedback therapy after my brain is already used to training. I have read that doing this way can help a person be more focused. However, I have a lot of “things” to deal with. Still, I totally believe neurofeedback therapy will help me with my OCD symptoms again.”

  • “After close to 15 years with OCD and anxiety, I have found what I would like to say is a “cure” for OCD – but I am still mindful that I am not finished with treatment. I was on Lexapro for about 7 years. I’ve been doing CBT on and off, but on for 2 years consistently. My OCD was so out of control that I asked for more medication. However, I was unable to do the ‘trial and error’ medication method, because it was too taxing on my body. It made me extremely ill. I woke up everyday praying that I would just die.

    Then, someone told me about neurofeedback therapy. I called a clinic to ask questions, and after a bunch of research, I agreed to try it. Well, I just finished my 12th treatment (I plan on doing at least 15-20) and my OCD is now a stranger to me. I think so much more clearly now. I have hope for the first time in my life. Yes, neurofeedback therapy is expensive, but I have been working extra hours at work to pay for it. I am the queen of skepticism, but I truly feel like this is a ‘game changer.’ If you want to get out of the hole, please look into neurofeedback therapy. I promise you it could save your life, and I just want to help you, too.”

  • We started LENS neurofeedback for my son. We did it once in 2018 but didn’t finish the entire round of sessions due to finding underlying health issues for my son. My son has OCD anxiety, trichotillomania, and adhd. Neurofeedback therapy helped my son tremendously in the time that he did it, and the effects lasted a long time, so after two years, we decided to sign our son back up for it. Thankfully, he is doing much better now. His OCD and anxiety has lessened and his ADHD and trich are practically non-existent.”

Final Thoughts

Neurofeedback therapy appears to be steadily gaining in popularity in the treatment of mental health conditions like OCD. The purpose of this therapy is to “empower” OCD sufferers so they feel capable of taking back control of their brains. The goal is to help these individuals regulate their brain activity and as a result control their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. The belief is that if a person can accomplish this feat they will experience a significant reduction in their OCD symptoms. 

Neurofeedback for OCD is still in the early stages, but current results are promising. Still, more research is needed to determine its full effectiveness in the treatment of OCD. Neurofeedback is an appealing OCD treatment option because it is generally safe and effective, and can be combined with other OCD treatments like acupuncture, OCD support groups, psychotherapy, and medications. For people who have been unable to get relief from their OCD symptoms, neurofeedback may be a viable option.


  • Deng, X., Wang, G., Zhou, L., Zhang, X., Yang, M., Han, G., Tu, Z., & Liu, B. (2014). Randomized controlled trial of adjunctive EEG-biofeedback treatment of obsessive-compulsive disorder. Shanghai Archives of Psychiatry, 26(5), 272–279. Retrieved from
  • Ferreira, S., Pêgo, J. M., & Morgado, P. (2019). The efficacy of biofeedback approaches for obsessive-compulsive and related disorders: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Psychiatry Research, 272, 237–245. Retrieved from
  • Jester, D. J., Rozek, E. K., & McKelley, R. A. (2019). Heart rate variability biofeedback: Implications for cognitive and psychiatric effects in older adults. Aging & Mental Health, 23(5), 574–580. Retrieved from
  • Zafarmand, M., Farahmand, Z., & Otared, N. (2022). A systematic literature review and meta-analysis on effectiveness of neurofeedback for obsessive-compulsive disorder. Neurocase, 28(1), 29–36. Retrieved from
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  • Luctkar-Flude, M., & Groll, D. (2015). A systematic review of the safety and effect of neurofeedback on fatigue and cognition. Integrative Cancer Therapies, 14(4), 318–340. Retrieved from

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DR. R. Y. Langham

Dr. R. Y. Langham has a B.A. in English, an M.M.F.T in Marriage and Family Therapy (Psychology), and a Ph.D. in Family Psychology. She is currently a medical, health & wellness contributor, copywriter, and psychological consultant

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