This is a comprehensive guide that explores Flow Neuroscience, a treatment option for depression and anxiety. Readers will be introduced to this product and its makers. We will give a detailed description of everything one would want to know about Flow.
Can Flow Neuroscience Help Depression & Anxiety?
Flow is a treatment that combines brain stimulation and behaviour therapy to reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety. It can help individuals feel better and more focused within a couple of weeks. Here are some of the effects users have experienced through treatment with Flow:
- Better focus and concentration
- Improved mood
- More initiative
- Optimistic view
- Reduced anxiety
- Less frequent thoughts of suicide
- More energy
- A sense of routine
- Hope for recovery
- Improved self esteem
- Improved sleep
How Flow Reduces Depression & Anxiety
If you’re interested in the Flow treatment for depression and anxiety, all you have to do is rent or buy the device. Treatment involves around two to five sessions of stimulation in a week. These sessions last for about thirty minutes. Throughout the week, you also participate in therapy exercises that support your recovery.
Now, let’s deepen our understanding of this product to see if it can be of use for you.
What is Flow?
Flow is a smart health device that you can wear on your head to treat depression and anxiety. It passes mild and safe amounts of current to a particular part of your brain. By doing so, it stimulates the brain areas that tend to show low activity when one is depressed.
Electrical stimulation causes the mind and body to react in a way that alleviates symptoms. Flow isn’t like the electrical stimulation from ECT or TMS because you can self administer it. Moreover, it doesn’t involve bulky machines with heavy duty cords.
The Flow brain stimulation is accompanied by established techniques in psychotherapy. These primarily include behaviour therapy and cognitive therapy that target unhelpful habits and thoughts that perpetuate depression. Together, the stimulation and therapy help individuals to fight their disorder and work their way towards wellbeing.
About the Company
Flow was co-founded by clinical psychologist Daniel Mansson and neuroscientist Erik Rehn. This Swedish company is headquartered in the coastal city of Malmö.
The duo wanted to combine their separate fields of expertise to create a solution that helps as many people with depression as possible. According to them, unlocking the science of the brain is key to understanding mental health.
With the agenda to make treatment for depression simple and accessible, they came with the idea of Flow. Using scientifically validated psychology, neuroscience, and technology, they created an effective and affordable treatment solution.
How does Flow Work?
Flow uses a two-pronged approach to improve mental health and promote wellbeing. The first is through brain stimulation using the Flow headset. This is the primary treatment that makes it different from other computer-based interventions that can be done at home.
In addition to this, Flow also has a smartphone app that provides behaviour therapy. Results of using the Flow approach typically start showing within three weeks. You will find that your mood has improved, you’re more focussed, and your initiative increases. Flow significantly reduces the frequency and intensity of anxious and suicidal thoughts as well.
What is Flow tDCS?
Research using neuroimaging techniques has revealed that depression is associated with reduced activity in the brain. Specifically, a part of the brain called the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) shows reduced activity in depression. Flow tDCS stands for transcranial Direct Current Stimulation.
It is a technique that restores activity in this part of the brain through electrical stimulation. This therapy is used in many clinics and its effectiveness has been investigated scientifically. With Flow, tDCS becomes more accessible to those in need as they can self-administer at home.
The Flow headset is bluetooth controlled, portable and well-trusted by tDCS experts. Through the replaceable headset pads, it passes mild currents to the targeted part of your brain. To use it, one must wear it for 2-5 30-minute sessions per week. Most users notice an improvement in less than a month.
What is Flow Behaviour Therapy?
Flow’s depression treatment is supplemented by the Flow app that provides behaviour therapy. This app will help you understand the nature of depression. It also has several exercises that bring a change in behaviour. It focuses on particular behaviours related to symptoms and perpetuating factors of depression and anxiety.
A virtual therapist guides you through more than 50 sessions that are made to improve sleep, diet, and physical activity. This is pretty helpful for someone who is depressed because the condition makes one neglect self care.
The app motivates and instructs users on how to improve these habits through baby steps. It also explains in a non-commanding way how such changes can improve mental health.
There are many short and cute videos that explain how depression works and what you need to do to fight it. This entire programme has been created by Flow’s in-house licensed psychologists.
You can monitor your progress through graphs presented on your phone. Not only will you see the effects of improvement in your daily life, you’ll also have data to prove it.
Who is Flow Meant For?
Flow has been designed for individuals who are struggling with depression and anxiety. It is targeted specifically at patients who want a better treatment for their condition. This is often the case when people are treatment-resistant, meaning that conventional remedies aren’t working.
If you have been dealing with depression for a long time and cannot seem to get better solely through medication, Flow is meant for you. Its mechanism also has a positive impact on symptoms of anxiety. For best results, use Flow to augment existing treatment options.
Flow is available in almost all of Europe, Hong Kong, and Brazil. You can check here to see if and when it will be available in your country.
What is Depression?
Depression is a mental health condition associated with psychological affective disorders like major depressive disorder and bipolar disorder. In this condition, one experiences a series of debilitating symptoms that interfere with functionality.
Someone who is depressed finds it incredibly hard to get out of bed, take care of themselves, or fulfil their responsibilities. It is very common for such an individual to think about or even attempt suicide.
There is a major change in the person’s personality as they can no longer be their original selves. They may stop participating in activities they once enjoyed and tend to be withdrawn, hopeless, and in despair.
Symptoms of Depression
The most common signs and symptoms of depression are listed below:
- Negative mood
- Loss of interest or pleasure in activities once enjoyed
- Drastic changes in appetite and/or weight
- Difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much
- Loss of energy
- Social withdrawal
- Intense feelings of guilt or shame
- Diminished self esteem
- Inability to concentrate or focus
- Difficulty making decisions
- Uncontrollable thoughts of death or escape
- Negligible self care or grooming
Treatment for Depression
Depression can be treated through several kinds of practices and need not be a permanent condition. These practices include allopathic approaches, psychotherapy, alternative healing and self-help techniques. Each of these are briefly described below:
Conventional treatment for depression is done by psychiatrists who use pharmacotherapy or Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) to diminish symptoms. The drugs primarily used for this are antidepressants, SSRIs, and sedatives. ECT sounds scary but is a lot safer today. Both medication and shock therapy may have side effects.
Doctors generally prescribe the following drugs for depression:
This is the most popular treatment approach for depression as it targets the root cause of the condition rather than only symptoms. A qualified professional forms a trusting and professional relationship with the client. By doing so, the therapist forms the foundation to learn about the onset and triggers of depression.
Therapy then proceeds using specific techniques such as:
- Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)
- Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT)
- Interpersonal Therapy
- Gestalt Therapy
- Behaviour Therapy
- Humanistic Psychology
- Existential Psychology
Depression is an extremely common condition but a lot of people are resistant to treatment through medication. It is also hard to find a good therapist that suits your needs. As a result, alternative healing is becoming quite popular among people looking for solutions.
These treatment approaches involve traditional or ancient practices like yoga, meditation, aromatherapy, acupressure, acupuncture, herbal remedies, and more. A lot of research is now going into alternative medicine to confirm its effectiveness.
There are a number of things you can do yourself to manage symptoms of depression. One can learn about these through self-help books, their therapist, special apps, or online resources. Broadly, these are centred around developing self care habits, improved self esteem, and changes in perspective.
Probably the most accessible self-help technique is to introduce nutritional supplements to your daily diet. Some supplements that help with depression are:
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin B Complex
- Amino Acids
- Valerian Root
- Rhodiola rosea
Flow Neuroscience for Depression
The Flow device stimulates certain areas of the brain associated with depression. Simultaneously, the user gets access to psychotherapy techniques through the Flow app. The programme has exercises that train them to make behaviour changes. With 6 weeks of the stimulation and exercises, they experience reduced symptoms of depression.
What is Anxiety?
Anxiety is a psychological disorder characterised by uncontrollable negative thoughts, increased bodily arousal, worry, and various bodily symptoms. The latter may include sweating, tightened muscles, irregular breathing, and increased heart rate.
It is a highly prevalent condition that is only spreading day by day, especially because of the COVID pandemic. Even without having a diagnosed anxiety disorder, people may experience anxiousness to the point of disruption of functionality.
One often finds it very difficult to focus, concentrate, be productive, and effective when troubled by anxiety. Moreover, a chronic experience usually leads to other body issues like disturbed sleep, reduced immunity, and fatigue.
Symptoms of Anxiety
Though anxiety can manifest differently in individuals, there are quite a few common signs and symptoms. These include:
- Increased heart rate
- Shortened breath
- Shaking or tremors
- Excessive sweating
- Frequent urination
- Difficulty sleeping
- Feeling tired all the time
- Racing thoughts
- Unwanted thoughts
- Nausea or vomiting
- Digestive problems
- Feeling very talkative
- Nervous energy
Treatment for Anxiety
There are a few different approaches one can take in the treatment of anxiety disorders. Treatment plans either focus on pharmacotherapy, cognitive therapy, behaviour therapy, or symptom management. Let’s discuss each of these briefly:
You must consult a psychiatrist for prescription drugs that lower symptoms of anxiety. The most commonly used medications for anxiety are SSRIs, anxiolytics, sedatives, and nerve pain medication.
A few names of such drugs are:
Anxiety is essentially a thought disorder that gets formed due to maladaptive patterns of thinking. Cognitive therapy educates the client about these patterns and trains them to start identifying them. Eventually, the client also learns how to replace them with more helpful thoughts.
Treatment practices include exercises like:
- CBT Triangles
- Positive affirmations
- Identifying rational/irrational thoughts
- CBT reappraisal
- Wise mind exercises
This treatment approach focuses on targeting the maladaptive behaviours associated with the experience of anxiety. Often, people develop habits such as nail biting, scratching, hair pulling, procrastination, or avoidance to deal with their unpleasant feelings.
In behaviour therapy, these unhelpful coping behaviours are replaced with healthier, more effective ones. The therapist helps the client identify which behaviours need to change and how.
For people dealing with chronic anxiety, symptom management helps a lot as it smoothens their experience. These techniques aim to reduce feelings of overwhelm, stress, and activation of the autonomic nervous system.
Instead, they promote anxiolytic behaviours like relaxation, concentration, and pain relief. These can be done with the therapist or even through self care practices. You can even achieve these through supplements, aromatherapy, and adaptogens.
Flow Neuroscience for Anxiety
Flow is another effective way to manage symptoms that can be done on your own at home. The Flow headset stimulates the brain areas involved with anxiety that leads to a reduction in symptoms.
A 2016 review suggests that such stimulation is an effective strategy to help people with treatment-resistant anxiety disorder. Other studies also show that tDCS can improve other anxiety-related conditions like tinnitus and obsessive-compulsive behaviour.
Since these techniques are significantly impactful on the lives of individuals dealing with anxiety, experts recommend its use for symptom management. What’s great is that combined with the Flow app, you can get at-home access to cognitive and behavior therapy as well!
Side Note: I have tried and tested various products and services to help with my anxiety and depression. See my top recommendations here, as well as a full list of all products and services our team has tested for various mental health conditions and general wellness.
Is Flow Safe to Use?
Flow as a treatment is approved for medical use and complies with the strict European laws for medical devices. It is CE certified, which ensures that it is based on scientific evidence, effective, and safe to use.
There are some side effects that are specified below:
- Skin may turn red for a few 30-60 minutes after use due to increased local blood flow. This is harmless and subsides on their own.
- Some users may experience skin irritation. In this case, do not reapply the device to irritated skin.
- Rarely, users with tinnitus have reported intensified ringing of ears.
Despite these mild side effects, if one follows the safety precautions, using Flow poses minimal risk of injury. Needless to say, it is safe to use.
What does Research Say?
Studies suggest that tDCS may be efficacious for treatment of depression and is associated with only minor side effects. It has been found that tDCS is particularly effective in treating dysphoria and retardation. Devices like Flow can also lower symptoms of anxiety.
However, there needs to be a lot more research as tDCS is only modestly effective in treating depressive episodes. It is an efficient therapy for patients with resistant major depression, and the benefits would remain at least for 1 month.
What do Users have to Say About Flow?
Since Flow is a relatively new product and there is not much awareness about tDCS, there isn’t an abundance of reviews on the internet for it. Almost all the reviews on their website have rated Flow four stars or more. What’s cool is that there are plenty of review videos there to give a more personal account of people’s experience with Flow.
Besides the reviews mentioned on their website, we also found this one by The Personal Philosophy Project. The vlogger claims that Flow transformed her mental health. If you’re pretty interested in trying Flow out by this point, we recommend watching this video. It is a real-time documentation of how Flow has helped this woman.
She speaks of how the Flow app has inspired and pushed her to work really hard on her recovery. It also showed her exactly how to do that using short term goals. As you can see in the video, her scores on depression assessment tools reduced with continued use.
Similarly, almost 50% of reviewers on TrustPilot say that Flow is excellent. About 33% of users said that it’s average or that it doesn’t work. All in all, we think that this is a cost-effective and useful treatment option that offers flexible services. That’s why Flow is definitely worth a try, especially if you’ve been struggling with depression for long.
How Much does Flow Cost?
Flow offers a flexible service where you can choose to either rent or own the device.
Renting costs €49 per month (€55 for starter pack) and includes:
- New or refurbished & sterilised headset
- Ongoing supply of headset pads
- Virtual behaviour therapy programme
- Free shipping
- Free return
Buying costs €459 paid once or in installments and includes:
- New headset
- Initial supply of headset pads that last 6 weeks
- Virtual behaviour therapy programme
- Free shipping
- Free return
Renting is a good option if you want to try it out without paying the full price. It is also a better choice for those who want Flow to handle the logistics of headset pad delivery. However, if you have tried tDCS before and know that it is the right treatment for you, you’d want to own it. This gives you the freedom to use it as and when you like.
Alternative Solutions to Flow Neuroscience
We’ve taken a good look at what Flow is and how it can help one with anxiety and depression. However, before deciding to purchase it, one must consider the product’s competition. Since Flow was made for a niche, there aren’t many alternatives that can offer what it does.
Having said that, there are a few devices available in the market that provide tDCS. Let’s take a look at two of them and compare them with Flow:
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Here is another neurostimulation device that uses tDCS through electrodes targeted at specific areas of the brain. It is meant to be an alternative to chemical stimulants such as caffeine, sugar, and other performance enhancers. As a healthier option, LIFTiD helps users improve their attention, focus, and alertness.
Much like Flow, LIFTiD is a lightweight wearable device. The headband is soft, adjustable, and quite fashionable. You can wear it while doing other activities like talking on the phone, playing the guitar, or playing video games.
LIFTiD isn’t meant specifically for people with depression but can definitely help them. Depressed individuals often find it challenging to get on with their work and responsibilities. Poor concentration and memory is a common symptom. For such situations, LIFTiD can help one be more functional.
This device is cheaper than Flow but cannot be rented and is only available in the continental US.
Unlike Flow or LIFTiD, TheBrainDriver doesn’t have fancy headgear. The device consists of a monitor and sponge electrodes that can be placed at specific spots on your skull. It comes with a regular sports headband to secure the electrodes.
The tDCS helps users improve their mood, accelerate athletic performance, reduce pain, and improve sleep. Again, TheBrainDriver isn’t designed particularly for depression and anxiety. It is more like a device for heightened performance and wellness.
TheBrainDriver can be used by individuals struggling with these psychological disorders. That’s because it can help them with somatic symptoms, sleep disturbances, and low mood. It is priced somewhere between Flow and LIFTiD but offers a good discount if purchased from the website.
This was a comprehensive guide that explores Flow Neuroscience, a treatment option for depression and anxiety. Readers were introduced to this product and its makers. We gave a detailed description of everything one would want to know about Flow.
Flow is a recent development in the treatment of conditions like depression and anxiety. It is a device that makes effective treatment affordable and accessible. Unlike medication or ECT, it does not have any serious side effects. There is quite a bit of research that shows promising results in treatment through the mechanism Flow uses.
Essentially, Flow combines brain stimulation and behaviour therapy to reduce symptoms. It can help individuals feel better and more focused within a couple of weeks. Flow can also decrease anxious and suicidal thoughts.
This guide explained who can benefit from Flow and how it helps with depression and anxiety. We also discussed safety concerns, relevant research, user reviews, and competing products.
FAQs (Flow Neuroscience Complete Review)
What is the difference between TMS and tDCS?
We’re quite familiar with the term tDCS now but people might confuse it with Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS). While both are techniques of brain stimulation, as the names suggest, they use different sources.
TMS sends a safe and controlled electrical current to the brain using induction. This uses a coil for the production of current. On the other hand, tDCS only uses battery power to create the current.
A TMS device is heavy, wall-powered, and uses a high-voltage cable. In contrast, a tDCS device is lighter and less bulky. It can be used outside of a lab or hospital. TMS is often compared to a similar treatment option, ECT.
Is tDCS FDA approved?
At the time of writing, tDCS is not an FDA-approved treatment for depression. However, in the future, this might change considering the vigorous amount of research being done on the subject.
Can tDCS make you smarter?
Research publications report that tDCS is safe and has beneficial effects on an individual’s cognitive abilities. This study shows that it enhances working memory, which makes one better at solving problems in mathematics or in general. It can also make one more creative since it impacts neuroplasticity.
Can deep brain stimulation cause dementia?
Some people may worry about the long term effects of brain stimulation. This is a natural concern as there’s not much awareness about what happens when you pass currents in the brain. Despite struggling with depression, one would not want to exchange it in the now for dementia in the future.
Fortunately, studies have revealed that this is not the case and that deep brain stimulation is safe. It does not increase the risk of dementia in later life.