This study was designed to investigate the effectiveness of Alpha-Stim® cranial electrotherapy stimulation (CES) in a group of 86 first responders for the treatment of anxiety, insomnia, depression, and pain. The study included a nonrandomized pretest-posttest design with participants choosing to participate or not (i.e., self-selecting into participation). The independent (treatment) variable in this study was exposure to active cranial electrotherapy stimulation. Participants were instructed to use the Alpha-Stim at a comfortable current intensity level adjustable from 100-600 microamperes for 20-60 min daily. The frequency of the waveform was set by the manufacturer to be constant at 0.5 Hz. At pretest (baseline) and posttest, data on outcome measures included perceived level of discomfort specific to the following indications (a) anxiety, (b) insomnia, (c) depression, and (d) pain. The instrument used by participants for reporting their perceived level of anxiety, insomnia, depression, and pain was a downloadable smartphone app. This app used an 11-point scale expressed as values of 0-10. A value of zero (0) signified an absence of the condition and a value of ten (10) signified a very high level of discomfort of the condition as perceived by participants. The statistical analyses of the results revealed highly significant (p values<.001) for anxiety, depression, insomnia, and pain. The effect size Cohen’s d values were large for all outcome measures indicating a high level of practical change from baseline to posttest, which supports the capability of Alpha-Stim CES technology in reducing anxiety, insomnia, depression and pain symptoms and the ability to monitor progress on the Alpha-Stim app.
Responding to crises is an everyday occurrence for some people in our society who we call first responders. First responders will inevitably encounter traumatic events, which are also known as critical incidents many times during their career . Traumatic events can be defined as an experience where a person perceives a threat of death or serious injury to self or others with emotional responses of fear, sadness, anger, disgust, and horror. The autonomic nervous system kicks in raising both heart rate and blood pressure . Exposure to traumatic events will produce psychological and biological reactions both at the time and delayed reactions following exposure. Any strong emotional response, when it persists, can lead to irritability, hyper vigilance, feeling overwhelmed, becoming emotionally over reactive, avoidant, isolating, fatigued, depressed and having disrupted sleep . When under stress some individuals cannot turn off their brains and go to sleep. The mind rewinds a day’s events, recalls past events and at times thoughts just seem to race through the head rapidly switching from one idea/ image to another. A person awakens feeling unrested and tired and may progress to a chronic sense of fatigue. Coping with tragic memories, that can haunt, is another burden that first responders also face. Symptoms of insomnia, anxiety, and depression are common for first responders who may become emotionally upset about events countered on the job. Routine work stresses combined with critical incident exposure create a cumulative pattern of both psychological and physical distress . Long work hours associated with chronic sleep and fatigue can all combine to physically and emotionally exhaust first responders.