Neurofeedback therapy is a method of brain-training that has been proven to successfully treat anxiety. Anxiety manifests in a variety of different ways. It occurs in both children and adults and it may be transient, chronic, or may simply show up as stress. Adults and children whose daily lives are disrupted by anxiety experience a variety of symptoms ranging from fear and shortness of breath, to heart palpitations, feelings of impending doom, and difficulty managing their overall emotional states. All of these symptoms can be successfully treated and eliminated with neurofeedback therapy.
Neurofeedback therapy is a non-invasive brain-training method which retrains the brainwaves responsible for behaviors associated with anxiety through audio and visual feedback. This training teaches brainwaves to respond more optimally. Over time, the behavior of the brainwaves shift, which results in the elimination of the undesired response and replaces it with a desired or more functional response, such as a quiet, calmer, mental state.
During a neurofeedback therapy session, the client sits comfortably and watches something on a screen, like a movie, or they play a video game. When the client produces the brainwaves which contribute to those feelings or states related to anxiety, the neurofeedback equipment will register the corresponding brainwave activity. If that brainwave activity is not in the desired range, the computer’s feedback mechanism, which is audio or visual stimuli, will be interrupted in some way. The client will receive an audio or visual indication that they are currently exhibiting the brain behaviors that are undesirable. Through operant conditioning, the software assists the brainwaves to move in a different direction until they shift to a more desired response. Eventually, the brain will be retrained to respond to the positive feedback on its own, subconsciously.
The goal of the treatment is to change the behaviors that we experience during periods of stress and/or anxiety through retraining the brain’s production of the brainwaves which are linked to those behaviors. Neurofeedback training improves anxiety and stress, which in turn reduces the negative impacts that these behaviors can have on a client’s overall health and well being. Some individuals are able to regain control of their body’s stress responses through a regiment of neurofeedback treatments alone, while others see best results from a combination of neurofeedback treatments with individual psychotherapy and cognitive behavioral therapies.
Neurofeedback Treatment for Anxiety?
The goal of neurofeedback treatment for anxiety is to directly retrain your brain to actively regain a state of calm and function more efficiently overall.
Elements of our perceptions of stressors, as well as our ability to manage our stress response, occurs in a part of the brain called the amygdala. The amygdala is composed of two almond-shaped structures deep within the temporal lobes of the brain. The temporal lobes are shown to play a major role in regulating memory and sensory perception, in addition to our emotional responses, such as fear and anxiety. As part of our body’s limbic system, the amygdala manages our “fight or flight” response. Our ability to control our anxiety is usually strongly correlated with the functioning of our amygdala.
Technological innovations in Quantitative Electroencephalography allow clinicians to obtain valuable information about the amygdala and how to regulate the functions of the amygdala through neurofeedback therapy.
Through the neural pathways that connect the limbic system to the cerebral cortex (prefrontal lobe) and from the cerebral cortex back to the limbic system, the brain is able to obtain information on its own activity. This is the underlying principle behind neurofeedback and its success with treating disorders and conditions that involve the limbic system. Over the course of treatment, neurofeedback teaches the individual to improve self-regulation, and shift their autonomic nervous system out of its current state of “fight or flight.” This, in turn, leads to a reduction in symptoms of stress and anxiety.
When the client comes in for neurofeedback therapy, they will first have their brain activity assessed with a qEEG (quantitative electroencephalography exam). Regardless of if the source of their anxiety stems from the amygdala, or elsewhere in the brain, the brain imaging will identify the neural activity responsible for the client’s anxiety response. Once these areas are identified, the client can begin their neurofeedback training program.
A neurofeedback therapy session can be completed within 30-45 minutes.
Neurofeedback training for anxiety can help clients reduce their feelings of stress and fear, focus better at work or school, have healthier, more fulfilling sleep, and feel more in-control of their day overall.
If you or your child are experiencing anxiety, or would like to learn more about the applications of neurofeedback therapy, we at NeuroZone are happy to answer your questions. Call (310) 821-3640 to schedule a complimentary consultation.
Anxiety is a natural human response to life stressors. Feeling anxiety before an important test or when speaking in front of a crowd is perfectly normal and natural. However, if you struggle to relax, or regularly experience physical symptoms such as heart palpitations, muscle weakness, fatigue, chest pain, shortness of breath, stomach aches, or headaches during normal daily activities, you may be dealing with chronic anxiety. Anxiety, chronic anxiety, and other anxiety disorders can make it difficult and sometimes nearly impossible to perform at work, at school, and even during social situations. Recent studies are additionally showing that chronic stress induced by anxiety symptoms can weaken individuals’ immune systems.
For parents of children with anxiety, it can be especially challenging to navigate the best way to help your child. Often, younger children with anxiety may experience frequent nightmares, night terrors, sleepwalking, bedwetting, or teeth grinding. These behaviors can disrupt the child’s sleep-wake cycles. This can lead to behavioral and learning problems in school. In fact, nearly 70% of all doctor’s visits may be linked to stress-related symptoms. Research shows that during childhood and adolescence, our brains are undergoing crucial developmental stages in emotional learning and regulation. Difficulty managing emotional extremes during adolescence is linked to higher chances of emotional dysfunction later in life. Shaping and training neural networks linked to emotional regulation, especially at a young age, can have long-term benefits for future mental health.
Anxiety demonstrates a comorbidity with many other disorders such as ADHD, Autism spectrum disorders, and many other types of cognitive impairments. In some cases, individuals may be diagnosed with only one type of anxiety disorders but will present with symptoms of more than one type. The presentation of one individual’s anxiety disorder can vary substantially in scope and intensity relative to another’s. It is important to speak with your medical practitioner about your stress and other symptoms that are impeding your ability to enjoy life. In many cases, neurofeedback training will also remediate the brain function responsible for the other comorbid disorders.
Anxiety and anxiety disorders are an extremely common issue in the United States, affecting as many as 40 million adults every year. You may have constant anxiety about the future, an unbreakable fixation on a past traumatic event, or experience frequent panic attacks. Daily tasks may feel overwhelming and exhausting. And socializing, or feeling happy in general, can feel impossible for people who feel fearful and stressed. Thankfully, neurofeedback therapy will alleviate these paralyzing feelings by training your brain to respond to stressors calmly and with a clear mind.
Neurofeedback as an Alternative to Medication
There are many different types of treatments for anxiety. These include traditional therapies, such as cognitive behavioral therapy and psychotherapy, as well as pharmacological intervention (medication). Some people combine therapeutic interventions with medications to treat their anxiety. These treatments may be successful for a small percentage of people.
Although these treatments are readily available, there are a wide variety of challenges that come with them. With medications, there are many side-effects that can occur that are harmful to your health. With psychotherapy and counseling, compliance is the main issue because this type of intervention requires long-term commitments. Client will often start these treatments but become disengaged and disillusioned after a certain period of time. Some other drawbacks of these treatments include difficulties finding a therapist with whom they are comfortable.
One of the most prevalent interventions for anxiety is medication. Neurofeedback provides a safer and more natural alternative to taking medication for several reasons:
- Medications affect the entire brain, not just the areas that require treatment. Compared to the highly specific, very localized treatment provided through neurofeedback, medication will affect the entire brain. This can lead to feelings of cognitive fatigue, brain fog and lethargy, as well as cognitive slowing in areas that do not require treatment.
- Medications will only work as long as the individual takes them. With neurofeedback, the individual is training their own brain towards behavioral change. This results in a permanent change in function. These changes last a lifetime even when the individual stops doing neurofeedback.
- Many people who take medication can experience an increase or worsening of their symptoms when they either stop their medication or switch to a different medication.
- There are often significant health related side effects of these medications, which can require additional treatment.
Our treatment for anxiety involves Qeeg/Brain mapping guided neurofeedback training.
Neurofeedback is the safest, most non-invasive solution for those who are struggling with stress and related anxiety disorders. Through the process of operant conditioning, it helps the brain learn how to self-regulate while strengthening the synaptic connections. Neurofeedback can be used in isolation or in conjunction with other methods of therapy such as cognitive behavioral therapy and psychotherapy.
Will Neurofeedback Help Me or My Child Cope with Anxiety?
Neurofeedback treatments are best implemented on a case-by-case basis after a thorough evaluation and testing. Even though anxiety presents in a variety of ways with a variety of different symptoms, today’s advanced brain imaging technologies make it possible to tailor neurofeedback therapy protocols to successfully treat a wide variety of symptoms related to anxiety. Neurofeedback therapy will retrain your brain to respond to stressors with calmer brain activity, instead of fear and panic. Once your brain waves learn healthier responses to anxiety, as a result of the neurofeedback training, you will finally be able to achieve the levels of success you deserve.
Don’t let anxiety have a say in your day. Schedule a complimentary consultation with Erin D. Badour, MS. Over her years of extensive medical and clinical experience, she has worked with patients of all ages to help them achieve new levels of behavioral and mental wellness. Call our office or click here to request an appointment to learn more about neurofeedback training and treatment for anxiety.