The purpose of this study was to assess whether individuals with a unique personality style, as defined by the Five-Factor Model of personality, are more successful with biofeedback treatment than individuals with different dominant traits. Ultimately, the goal of such a positive finding, would be to consider personality style in a clinician's decision to use biofeedback treatment with a given patient, and thus save time and money that would be wasted in a “trial and error” selection approach.
The method was a quasi-experimental research design, where patients referred for biofeedback treatment at a private practice behavioral medicine clinic, were asked to complete an intake packet, as well as migraine and relaxation weekly inventory logs. Each participant underwent biofeedback treatment as indicated for her/his particular case. A psychophysiological stress profile was carried out at the start of treatment and after a period of biofeedback treatment. A Repeated Measures Analysis of Variance was employed to assess whether there was a change within individual participants on the physiological functions targeted during biofeedback treatment (i.e. reactivity to stress, recovery from stress, and on depth of relaxation). Symptom improvement (i.e. migraine severity) was examined descriptively, rather than statistically. In addition, a survey was distributed to a non-clinical sample to assess relationships between personality characteristics and perceived ability to succeed with biofeedback treatment. This more subjective measure of likelihood of seeking biofeedback treatment and perceived success was correlated with personality style, as measured using the Ten Item Personality Inventory (TIPI). It was analyzed using a Pearson-Product Correlation analysis.
Results for the migraine study are reported for the 3 participants, which means that, due to the small sample size, findings for the clinical portion of the study must be interpreted cautiously. Significant findings suggest that biofeedback treatment may effectively reduce the neck muscle tension reaction to cognitive stress. Borderline significant findings also suggest that there may be a relationship between biofeedback treatment and ability to recover from stress and deeply relax by lowering neck muscle tension and skin conductance. Non-significant, although noteworthy, was that heart rate decreased, and thus improved, for all 3 participants, across baseline, reactivity, and recovery conditions. However, the participants seemed to have many counter-therapeutic effects on the various other physiological measures. Descriptively, the frequency of headaches was reduced in all 3 participants, although intensity increased, and duration improved for 2 participants, while it worsened in 1 participant. Therefore, subjectively experienced migraine severity was both favorably and adversely affected by biofeedback treatment, depending on severity indicator.
Results for the survey study are reported for 216 participants. Participants tended to endorse high levels of all of the personality traits and there seemed to be a general sense of uncertainty about the likelihood that these individuals would engage in biofeedback treatment, but that once the decision was made to pursue treatment, participants tended toward believing that they would succeed. Agreeableness and Openness to Experience were significantly related to perceived success with biofeedback, so that as levels of these traits increased, perceived success with biofeedback also increased. There was a similar positive significant relationship between likelihood of seeking biofeedback and perceived success with biofeedback.