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Electrotherapy: How CES Can Help With Anxiety

Article Summary:

Cranial Electrotherapy Stimulation, or CES, is an FDA-approved treatment method for anxiety, insomnia, and depression. This article will help you better understand cranial electrotherapy stimulation and how to use CES for anxiety...

Cranial Electrotherapy Stimulation, more commonly referred to as CES, is an FDA-approved treatment method for anxiety, insomnia, and depression.

CES treatment uses a small device that transmits pulsed, low-intensity current to the scalp and brain using electrodes connected to the earlobes or temples.

While you may picture something similar to Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT), used extensively in the early days of psychiatric treatment (and still used today), CES electrical current is minuscule in comparison.

Most CES devices operate on a single 9-volt battery and can be used at home while doing ordinary tasks.

Below we will dive into the most commonly asked questions about CES and help provide a much clearer understanding of what it is and how it works.

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A Brief History of CES

Research for what is now called Cranial Electrotherapy Stimulation (CES) began in the Soviet Union in the early 1950s.

Before that, electrical stimulation in the brain and body had been used in many different forms.

In the 1950s, CES research focused primarily on its use for insomnia and sleeping disorders.

However, its effectiveness for anxiety and depression quickly became apparent.

The use of CES devices began to spread as clinical studies proved its ability to help those with anxiety and depression, with very few side effects.

In 1979, the FDA approved using CES devices for insomnia, anxiety, and depression.

Today CES devices are used worldwide for everything from anxiety and depression to PTSD and pain management.

How Does CES Work?

A CES device sends pulsed, alternating microcurrent to the scalp and brain.

Typically two electrodes are attached to the earlobes or temples, and the user will lie down or sit for a 20-45 min session.

This microcurrent enters the brain, calming and quieting the mind.

The exact nature of how CES achieves its positive effects still needs to be fully understood.

However, based on scientific studies, it is believed that CES helps balance neurotransmitters in the brain, promotes alpha brainwave patterns, promotes endorphin release, and even deactivates parts of the brain that are responsible for excessive worry and overstimulation.

Through these perceived methods, Cranial Electrotherapy Stimulation can help reduce anxiety and depression, promote a more relaxed state, and reduce pain.

CES Frequencies

One of the most common terms you will hear around CES is frequency.

Typically the two most popular frequencies used in CES devices are 0.5Hz and 100Hz.

Most devices on the market will use one of those two frequencies, and many devices will offer the option to use either one.

Some devices, like the Oasis Pro, offer both as well as multiple ranges in between the two.

Below is a brief description of both frequencies and their potential use:

  • 0.5Hz: the brainwave pattern of deep (or sub) Delta; primarily used to increase endorphins; good for depression and reducing pain
  • 100Hz: the most popular frequency for anxiety, stress, and better sleep; primarily used to increase serotonin in the brain; relaxes the mind and helps focus

Is CES Safe?

When you imagine electrical stimulation of the brain, images of psych wards with patients being shocked into convulsing states may come to mind.

Rest assured that CES is very far from Electroconvulsive Therapy or anything similar.

CES devices operate on a single 9-volt battery and provide 1/1000th of the current of ECT.

These devices are safe enough to be used in your home while sitting quietly or doing other minor tasks.

CES has been proven safe through hundreds of clinical trials and has FDA approval for anxiety and depression.

How to Use A CES Device

It's always best to follow the directions of the device manufacturer.

However, for those completely new to CES, we will provide a basic guideline on how to use these devices.

This guideline can help you better understand the process and how often and how long you should use it.

The info below is just a general guideline; methods and settings will differ depending on your device:

  1. Get into a seated position
  2. It's generally advised to wet (or use an electrode gel) at the point of contact, such as the earlobes
  3. Attach the electrodes to the contact points
  4. Turn on the device and choose the session/frequency setting
  5. Start session
  6. Most devices automatically begin at the lowest possible intensity
  7. You can turn up the intensity if/when desired
  8. You may feel a very faint tingling at the correct intensity
  9. You should not feel any sensations of pain or discomfort (if you do, the intensity is way too high)
  10. Most devices will auto shut-off at the end of the session; if not, turn off the device once finished

Session Lengths

Most CES sessions range from 20 mins-1 hour.

We generally recommend starting with 15-20 mins to see how CES works for you before committing to more extended periods.

Many people find a 20 min session per day or every other day optimal. You might find this optimal or you may prefer a slightly longer session.

Using CES Long Term

CES devices are safe for long-term daily use with no known side effects. Most people will find positive benefits and release from many symptoms after their first few sessions, so long-term everyday use is not usually necessary.

How often you need to use the device depends on the severity of your symptoms and the relief you want. Some will find they need to use the device daily, while others may receive the best results only using it 1-2 times per week.

Using CES for Anxiety

A CES device can help make significant improvements in anxiety.

It can have an even more profound effect when used with other support methods, like meditation, breathing exercises, and proper nutrition and supplementation.

CES has been proven especially effective for Generalized Anxiety and State Anxiety (dentist appointments, tests, doctor visits, etc.). In fact, some dentists have begun using CES devices in their offices for those with anxiety.

In a six-week clinical study using participants with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), the average anxiety reduction was 40.4%.

How to Purchase a CES Device

There are two classes of CES devices available to the general public:

  • FDA-approved devices (requires a doctor's prescription): these include devices like Alpha-Stim and Fisher Wallace
  • Non-FDA approved devices (no prescription needed): these include devices such as Oasis Pro and CES Ultra

The FDA-approved devices typically cost more than their non-approved counterparts.

It is possible to have your health insurance cover your FDA-approved CES device, but this would need to be discussed with your doctor and health insurance provider.

While the FDA-approved devices are very well made and generally have more medical studies on record, there are some well-made non-approved devices, such as the Oasis Pro, which we also recommend.

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Precautions Before Using

If you are pregnant, have a history of seizures, or have medical implants, you should not use any CES device. In addition, if you suffer from a psychiatric condition or mental illness, getting a professional opinion is highly advised before starting CES treatment.

Still Have Questions?

If you still have questions about how CES works, specific CES devices, or anything else related to Cranial Electrotherapy Stimulation you can email us at

You can learn more about the products mentioned in this article directly from the manufacturer's websites below:


Fisher Wallace:

Oasis Pro:

CES Ultra:

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