Neurofeedback for Anxiety: A drug free, long-lasting therapy
Anxiety disorders are the most common category of mental health disorder in American impacting over 40 million adults, and the prevalence has greatly increased during the last few years. Greater than 1 in 4 children ages 13-18 also experience symptoms related to anxiety. Recent studies show that the increased use of social media is causing more stress and anxiety in our teenage population. The most common treatment for anxiety has been therapy and medication. The long-term studies with medication use show that these medications are really not that helpful, and have several side effects. Neurofeedback is another treatment option.
First, it is important to look at any underlying cause of anxiety, and to alleviate that if possible. The main causes of anxiety are:
· Stress at work
· Stress at school
· Stress in personal relationships
· Financial stress
· Stress from global occurrences or political issues
· Stress from unpredictable events – like a pandemic
· Emotional stress from the loss of a loved one
· Stress from medical illness
· Side effects from medication
· Use of illicit drugs (or in Colorado- use of marijuana- yep rebound causes anxiety)
· Symptoms of a medical illness
· Lack of oxygen (don’t forget altitude sickness)
Second, we have to remember that are brains are bathed in neurotransmitters. What if your neurotransmitters are out of balance from a nutritional deficiency, or a genetic predisposition? It is important to know what you are treating and not just throw the same medications at everyone. Funny, we don’t really all need more serotonin, but SSRIs are the go-to medication. We can test and see which medication is right for you; if you choose that path.
Neurofeedback offers a drug-free option. So, what is neurofeedback? Neurofeedback is biofeedback for your brain. First, we collect brain wave activity and use a normalized data base to create maps. We can see if someone has too much or too little of certain type of brain wave activity and see how the areas of the brain are communicating with each other. We use this information to develop a training plan. During training sessions, the client’s brain is guided to reach a calm, healthy state. The brain can then stabilize and become well-regulated.
HOW NEUROFEEDBACK WORKS FOR ANXIETY
With anxiety, brainwave pattern may be out of sync. Your brain may be overstimulated and might produce too much fast activity, or there may be poor connections which make it difficult if not impossible to understand social situations or to read other peoples’ expressions. Teens really seem to struggle with social anxiety and misunderstanding of social cues. Neurofeedback can balance brainwave activity and strengthen pathways. Clients usually notice changes within 8-10 sessions. Sleep is often one of the first things to improve. Being well rested is key for anyone dealing with anxiety.
CHILDREN, ANXIETY AND NEUROFEEDBACK
Anxiety in children can present as behavioral issues or acting out. It is important to address fears and try to figure out where this behavior is coming from. Children with learning delays, or autistic spectrum issues often experience anxiety due to their limited abilities to communicate. Food sensitivities can also cause anxiety and/or pain that children may not be able to verbalize.
Neurofeedback can help balance brainwave activity, and can create stronger, more stable connections. We have worked with children as young as 3. This therapy provides a drug free option for calming young brains. Very little is known about using psych medications in young children. Please rule out anxiety and sleep issues before you medicate your child for ADHD. Lack of attention is often more complicated than it appears, and using medication, especially in children under 6 is not the answer.
CHOOSING NEUROFEEDBACK FOR ANXIETY
Most of the clients that we see for anxiety are either wanting to avoid medication, or want to get off of medications they are already taking due to side effects. We will work with your PCP to help wean you off of your medication if that is your desire. Medications are a viable choice for many people, and you can do neurofeedback while you are on your medications. We also find that clients do very well with neurofeedback in conjunction with counseling. Especially if someone is dealing with anxiety related to PTSD, it is crucial for that person to simultaneously be in counseling. We have Licensed Professional Counselors on staff, or we will help you find a counselor if you need one.
Neurofeedback is drug-free, and non-invasive. Most clients tolerate neurofeedback well, but may experience some side-effects initially. We often tell parents that sometimes things can get worse before they get better. It is very important to share any and all session effects (both good and bad) with your therapist. This will help us to further individualize your treatment plan. Typically treatment takes 20-40 sessions. Neurofeedback is long lasting. Once the connections are made, and your brain waves are balanced, they tend to stay that way. Of course if there is an injury, or other trauma you may need more sessions.
If you are interested in trying neurofeedback, or would like a FREE consultation, please contact The Colorado Center for Neurofeedback.