Neurofeedback for Anxiety
The Background of Anxiety
Anxiety is one of those disorders that is extremely physical. It's easily identifiable by it's more common symptoms like racing thoughts, feeling keyed up or on edge, excessive worry, and self-doubt. There are many disorders that fall on the anxiety spectrum, so anxiety can take on many forms. For the sake of space (and the feeling in my fingers) I'm going to focus on Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), because it is the most common anxiety disorder in our society. GAD affects 6.8 million adults throughout the United States, and often goes untreated for various reasons. In GAD, the worry doesn't have a specific target, like social situations, or speaking in front of people, it's there all the time and can be related to family, work, friends, money, illness... the possibilities are numerous.
People who experience GAD find it difficult to control their worry, and GAD, like many mental health disorders, doesn't discriminate in terms of age or gender. While the occurrence of the disorder is higher in women, men can experience it too, and it can begin at any point during the lifespan, but the risk for developing the disorder is highest during childhood and middle age. GAD can make people feel chaotic and out of control, and may make tolerating uncertainty unbearable, which significantly diminishes quality of life.
Neurofeedback and Anxiety
In the brain, anxiety is often the result of too much fast wave activity in the right hemisphere and treating anxiety with neurofeedback is relatively easy. By teaching the brain to produce more Alpha, or slow wave frequencies on the right side or in the back of the brain, or helping the brain learn how to turn down the fast waves, anxiety symptoms may decrease, thus leading to decreased worry, less chaos, and better ability to manage daily life stressors, and, you guessed it, decreased need for medication. There are various ways neurofeedback can help other disorders that fall on the anxiety spectrum, such as Obsessive Compulsive Disorder or Posttraumatic Stress Disorder by targeting the amygdala, which is responsible for the fight-or-flight response. By turning down the amygdala, we turn down the fight-or-flight response, thus reducing symptoms.
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