Heart rate variability biofeedback therapy as a means of reducing anxiety in a cohort of college students with autism spectrum disorder : a pilot study.


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College students with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) are at an increased risk for anxiety disorders, as well as the poor academic, social, health, and economic outcomes that have been linked to heightened anxiety. While there are interventions with proven efficacy in reducing anxiety for individuals with ASD, these interventions do not work as well as they do in typically developing populations. Biofeedback therapy is a technique that has shown preliminary positive results as an intervention to reduce state anxiety in individuals with ASD, though additional research is needed. This study explores the efficacy of using a Heart Rate Variability Biofeedback Therapy (HRVBT) intervention for the treatment of anxiety in a population of college students with ASD (n=4) using a multiple baseline design. Over a ten-week intervention, participants received 20-minute HRVBT sessions weekly. Heart rate variability (HRV) was measured using the emWave software to gauge psychophysiological levels of anxiety, and the State Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI) was administered concurrently to compare perceived levels of anxiety.