Can Anxiety Be Helped by Neurofeedback?
January 02, 2018
By Karl Oliger, DC, DACNB, Bloomington Neuro and Rehab
Anxiety is often a common human response to stress, which can come from mental, physical, dietary or environmental sources, such as loud sounds. When a person's brain develops a pattern of angst, it can be difficult to break. In patients with anxiety, life can become more pleasant when they are able to regulate or discontinue its negative effects.
Neurofeedback offers physiological support and allows people to learn to change their stress response. Brain training allows them to develop the skills they need to lessen or eliminate anxiety from their lives.
WHAT IS ANXIETY?
Anxiety shows itself in many ways. Symptoms can be apprehension, a feeling of fear, worrying excessively, depression, excessive emotion, thinking negatively, being overly defensive, or always thinking the worst. Anxiety is usually found in cases of addiction, being obsessive, unduly controlling and behavioral troubles.
Those who suffer from anxiety often feel overburdened, tired, and tensed. Some cannot focus on daily activities. Others become obsessed with particular things. Anxiety can easily be noticed if someone is visibly apprehensive. However, many that suffer look laid back, but their brain races without end. They cannot cease thinking. Their quality of life is strained and they get no sleep due to the constant noise in their mind. They cannot enjoy today because their mind is always in rewind or fast-forward mode.
A SOLUTION: TRAINING THE BRAIN
The most effective solution to anxiety is helping people to learn to feel calm. This gives those who suffer from anxiety hope, while regaining their lives.
Neurofeedback is one of the simplest and most effective ways to teach people how to help themselves and it's easy to do. Brain training has been used for years with strong, validated results. The effects of neurofeedback can help a person decrease the need for medication and improve the enjoyment of daily activities by training the brain to work more properly. The brain will be more relaxed and consistently in control during situations that previously would have caused anxiety.
NEUROFEEDBACK AND MEDICATION
The most common route for patients with anxiety is to be prescribed medications. Although this may help to calm the symptoms for a period of time it cannot train your brain to work the way it was intended. There are usually only a couple of areas of the brain that lead to feelings of anxiety. Neurofeedback can identify which areas are being affected and they can then be targeted. Unfortunately, there can be many side effects from medication since it will affect the whole brain. Medication often causes people to become slow, apathetic, or lethargic.
- People tend to become dependent on medications because they only work when they are used
- The effects of the medications may not be lasting if other tools aren't used in conjunction to alleviate the cause of the anxiety
- Many of the medications used to treat anxiety can be addictive. So, decreasing them improperly could create other issues – an increase in anxiety, more stress, and withdrawal symptoms
- If the medications are no longer effective, the prescribing physician will need to start another one. This can again cause the symptoms to reoccur or increase
Research has shown neurofeedback to be very effective. With help from the prescribing physician, as the patient's anxiety decreases, the patient may be able to decrease and/or eliminate use of the medication.
WHY HAVEN'T WE HEARD ABOUT NEUROFEEDBACK?
Neurofeedback is not new. It’s actually been used as early as the 1960's. During the 80's its prevalence for training people with anxiety and similar conditions was widespread. Researchers and clinicians from all over the globe founds its effects on decreasing anxiety to be very successful. One major reason for the decrease in knowledge about this therapy was the reduction in reimbursement by insurance companies by 75%. This made it less cost effective for the clinician as well as the client.
More recently, consideration by insurance companies have began to change in favor of the use of neurofeedback. These changes are due to more technological and clinical research and the cost of the equipment and training for clinicians. Now, more professionals are seeing a resurgence in practice as well as an uptick in the amount of insurance policies that may consider the training in their reimbursement schedules.
HOW DOES NEUROFEEDBACK WORK?
After proper evaluation (interview with clinician and baseline qEEG – brain map), certain points within the brain are selected. These points are chosen based on the information gleaned by the clinician as well as the known areas of the brain which control the areas of dysregulation. Sensors are placed on the scalp and the patient sits in a relaxing chair watching popular videos or movies that they have chosen. When the sensors show that the brain is actually performing within the proper rhythm, the video screen is clear. When the sensors pick up improper frequencies from the brain sites the movie being watched will actually start to become dim.
The brain is very smart. It will then recall what rhythm was being produced when the screen was clear and will again produce that rhythm. Over time the brain remembers these frequencies and they become more regular. This is training for the brain. The effects from this training eventually are normally produced in our daily activities and the changes become permanent. Most people are able to discontinue training once they have reached a point that they are no longer experiencing their previous symptoms.
For more information, please contact Bloomington Neuro and Rehab at 309-270-6070 or online at www.bloomingtonneurorehab.com. Their office is located at 3004 GE Rd. Ste 1A. Dr. Oliger has completed extensive post-doctoral training and is a Board-Certified Chiropractic Neurologist and practitioner of functional medicine.
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