The efficacy of biofeedback approaches for obsessive-compulsive and related disorders: A systematic review and meta-analysis

Biofeedback is applied to target excessive and/or deficient physiological signals to help patients identifying and self-managing their symptoms. Biofeedback has been employed in psychiatric disorders, including obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), mainly by using neural signals – neurofeedback. Recently, OCD has been integrated into the obsessive-compulsive and related disorders (OCD&RD) category (body dysmorphic, hoarding, trichotillomania/hair-pulling, and excoriation/skin-picking disorders). The efficacy of biofeedback for OCD&RD is still unknown. Our work provides a complete overview of publications assessing the therapeutic efficacy of biofeedback in OCD&RD with a systematic review and meta-analysis. We found ten studies involving 102 OCD participants (three randomized controlled trials) mostly applying neurofeedback (one publication used thermal biofeedback). Five neurofeedback studies were selected for meta-analysis (89 patients; two randomized controlled trials). The overall effect size within the treatment group varied between medium to large, but high heterogeneity and inconsistency values were found. The methodological quality was low indicating a high risk of bias. In conclusion, a beneficial effect of neurofeedback for OCD patients was found but also critical limitations on methodology, high heterogeneity among studies, and a putative reporting bias. Future research following high-quality guidelines should be conducted to address the efficacy of biofeedback approaches for OCD&RD.

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