Anxiety and Neurofeedback
Everyone experiences anxiety from time to time. Anxiety can originate from many sources: stress at work, feeling overwhelmed when cleaning the house, or the daunting prospect of sending kids off to a new year. When anxiety interrupts your day to day functioning, this may be a sign of an anxiety disorder.
A person suffering from an anxiety disorder can experience many different types of symptoms, both physical and mental in nature. When a person starts to feel anxious, the body goes into hyperarousal, also known as fight or flight, and the physical symptoms of anxiety can appear. Excessive perspiration, nausea, light headedness and a difficulty to breathe are just some of the common symptoms associated with an anxiety disorder. Mentally, anxiety can provoke feelings of fear, dread, helplessness and even anger, all negatively impacting a person’s quality of life.
Often, other psychological issues can cause, or be caused by, anxiety. In the mental health field, this relationship is called comorbidity. For example, a person with ADHD might experience anxiety because they are fearful that they make mistakes due to their issues with attention. Insomnia is another example, because if the brain is unable to get the sleep it needs, anxiety can result.
Anxiety disorders are common, affecting more than 40 million American adults. The question of how to treat anxiety has long been debated. Common treatments of anxiety include prescribed medications like benzodiazepines. Medications like this can help improve quality of life, but do not address the underlying cause of anxiety. The catalyst of anxiety might be external (life events or social situations for example), but the cause of anxiety is physical. The anxiety a person feels is a chemical reaction, starting in the brain and affecting the rest of the body. Medical science has progressed far enough that we know which neurotransmitters effect anxiety, and which neural pathways are activated when a person is anxious. Neurofeedback can be used to treat anxiety by targeting these neural pathways and encouraging better, more efficient functioning.
The method relies on visual and auditory cues to strengthen neuropathways in the brain, and as a result, the brain begins to work more efficiently. The first step is to schedule a comprehensive intake as every person’s anxiety, or other issue, is unique to them, therefore, no two treatment plans should be the same. Then data is collected using EEG technology to see where the brain is not functioning at an optimal level. Using this data, a protocol is created to target that area of the brain. Using this protocol, a technician uses a program to interpret the brain waves in real time, the client simply watches a screen in their session. When the brain is producing waves in the targeted areas that are congruent with the treatment goal, it is rewarded with a pleasant tone and a piece of a picture puzzle on the screen in front of the client.
As mentioned before, every case is different, and so often we have different reports of positive results. For some clients, school performance improves because the anxiety holding a student back from working at their highest potential has been reduced/eliminated. In adult clients, work performance improves because a patient can focus and accomplish more in the day. We have athletes report they can play better because they are no longer focusing on their anxiety instead of the game.
Neurofeedback is a noninvasive, effective and personalized option for treatment of anxiety and many other issues anyone might be experiencing.
For more information on how neurofeedback can help, contact an experienced technician at Advanced Neurotherapy, located at 145 Rosemary St., Entrance J, Needham, at 781-444-9115 or visit AdvancedNeurotherapy.com.
Dr. Jolene Ross is the founder and director of Advanced Neurotherapy. She is a licensed psychologist and received a Ph.D. in counseling psychology.