Cranial Electrotherapy Stimulation

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Use of Cranial Electrotherapy Stimulation for Depression and Anxiety

Electrical stimulation has been used to treat ailments even before electricity was discovered. The miraculous ability of certain animals to produce electric currents was put to use in ancient medicine. The first recorded instances of this kind of electrical stimulation are from Ancient Greece and Rome.

However, it wasn’t until 1773 that we got to know the actual process behind the healing effect of these animals. And how to put it to good use. After several technological developments over several decades. Now we now have the Cranial Electrotherapy Stimulation (CES) technology.

What is Cranial Electrotherapy Stimulation (CES)?

CES was already in use in many countries before it gained popularity in the US. It was developed in the 1950s in the Soviet Union. And quickly spread through most parts of Europe and Asia before arriving in the US. Interestingly, it was initially known as ‘electrosleep.’ Probably owing to its use in curing insomnia.

CES is a process of electrical stimulation of the brain. Using two electrodes placed on earlobes or temples that produce a weak electrical current (< 4mA). CES came into the mental health care scene. In the face of a general dearth of effective treatment methods. However, these take disappointingly long to have any effect and cause side effects that are impossible to overlook. CES, on the other hand, has been known to be highly effective in treating anxiety and depression with minimal side effects. It has also seen huge success in palliative medicine. Pain relief is the most developed field in the use of CES. Or mild headaches.

However, the use of electrotherapy for medical treatment has not been without criticism. Electroconvulsive therapy has been a topic of controversy ever since its inception. Several researchers and activists protested against it for being ‘inhuman’ and ‘torturous.’ Despite these setbacks, electroconvulsive therapy is still in practice. This is largely due to the fact that there are no effective ways. Especially of treating psychiatric conditions. Particularly, without heavy side effects. CES. However, is the most effective and least invasive with minimal side effects.

Benefits of CES

How does CES work?

The success of electrical stimulation on the brain and its functions has its basis in the fact that the brain primarily functions electrochemically.

Research shows that electrical stimulation triggers the release of neurotransmitters. And that can, in turn, produce relaxing effects. CES also works on several brain areas. For example, the thalamus, hypothalamus, and the limbic system. Which helps in the regulation of emotions. This helps people suffering from uncontrollable fits of rage or breakdowns. Especially to have a more stable disposition. It also helps with hormonal imbalance and pain.

There are two theories on how CES helps with pain relief. One is that CES blocks pain messages from the brain. The second, argues that by releasing endorphins and other neurotransmitters. CES elevates the pain threshold. The second effect also helps in reducing anxiety and depression. Interestingly, the use of CES in pain relief has its roots in the research by Dr. Ronald Melzack. He noticed the phenomenon called phantom limb. He noticed that some amputees experience pain in their missing limbs. Moreover, he traced the source of this pain to the nervous system and hypothesized the existence of a pain homunculus in the brain. He argued that the pain center in the brain sent pain messages despite the lack of stimulation.


CES has significant effects on brainwaves. And also consequent sensations. Brainwaves are electrical impulses in the brain that happen during communication between neurons. There are different kinds of brainwaves depending on the different frequencies they occur at. These different kinds of waves facilitate the different states of our minds. Especially, along with thoughts and emotions.

On the electroencephalogram (EEG) that measures brain activity. Moreover, there are clear indications that CES affects alpha, beta, and delta frequencies. Beta waves indicate a state of alertness, often during increased mental activity and effortful focus. Secondly, delta waves are usually produced while we are asleep.
An increase in alpha activity is often associated with relaxing sensations. Decreased beta waves help in reducing anxiety and OCD. And decreased delta waves are associated with increased energy and reduced stress. Additionally, due to the positive effects of CES on brainwaves. Several behavioral and learning disorders can be controlled with a CES device.

Take a look at the variety of services we offer

All prospective new patients to Ballard Psychiatric Services must complete an online Appointment Request form. The form asks about basic demographic information. Your primary treatment concerns and insurance information.

If you have any questions prior to your visit, please don’t hesitate to email [email protected]

We also have detailed Directions to show you how to get to the office in Ballard.

Clinical uses of CES

Psychotherapy benefits people.  Especially from the assistance of CES during therapy sessions. The relaxing effects of CES often help patients to express their emotions freely and open up easier.
Additionally, CES does not show any disadvantageous interactions with the chemicals. Moreover, patients can use CES in addition to the medicines they are on. Moreover, CES often reduces the amount of medication needed. Secondly,  CES is a much safer option than medicines anyway. Even if we consider the side effects.

CES Devices

Among the many advantages of CES in treating many chronic illnesses is the fact that it can be used at home. With no professional supervision in most cases. The two commonly used CES devices are Alpha-Stim and FisherWallace Cranial Electrical Stimulator. The former uses clips that can be attached to the earlobe. Secondly, the latter is usually attached to the temples, with sponge electrodes.


Like many modern inventions, CES has its roots in ancient practices. It used to be considered a miraculous cure to otherwise incurable diseases. With modern technology, we have tamed it for highly controlled use in medical sciences. Apart from being as easy to use as a personal massager. Cranial Electrotherapy Stimulation remains one of the most effective treatment methods for depression, anxiety, insomnia, and pain relief.

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