What is anxiety?
Anxiety is a general term used to describe worry, fear or apprehension. It is a normal response to a traumatic, dangerous or fear-inducing circumstance.
However, if you are experiencing anxiety without those normal causes, that can be an indication of a more serious imbalance in brain function.
Anxiety disorders can disrupt every part of your life — relationships, work, sleep — and can dramatically affect your ability to enjoy life itself.
There are many types of diagnoses that involve anxiety. Panic disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), social phobias, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and generalized anxiety disorder, just to name a few.
Sometimes anxiety will be triggered by a reminder of a traumatic event — such as a loud noise for a soldier dealing with PTSD.
How anxiety manifests in the brain
We’re all familiar with the physical changes associated with anxiety. You feel anxious or afraid, your body responds with hormones that speed up your heart and respiration, make your mouth dry, and slow down digestion. These are some of the sympathetic nervous system’s response to ready the body for “fight or flight.”
Once the feeling of anxiety passes, the parasympathetic nervous system takes over, calming the body down for rest and recovery.
But what happens if your brain is in a constant state of worry? The fight or flight mode can become your natural state if your brainwaves are imbalanced. Anxiety sufferers tend to have repetitive, negative thoughts that create a chronic state of fear or dread. This type of brainwave activity is usually related to excessive beta brainwave activity in the right side of the brain. This activity can now be measured, using a QEEG (quantitative electro-encephalogram). This is also known as a “brain map.”
What does this mean for people with chronic anxiety ?
Up to now, the standard approach to these issues is either medications, therapy, or both. Medications can be effective in easing the symptoms caused by an anxious brain.
However, the effects are temporary, and side effects can be severe. Therapy sessions can take years, and require sometimes painful revisiting of past traumas in order to produce change.
There is another way: Neurofeedback training
Neurofeedback training is an all-natural approach that can create long-term changes in brain function. These changes go to the source of the anxiety — imbalanced brainwaves in the brain itself.
The process is simple. Neurofeedback uses your brain’s natural ability to learn new things to help it heal. From a branch of psychology known as behaviorism, neurofeedback uses a system of audio and visual feedback to re-train your brain, and bring it back to balance.
All you have to do is sit back, relax, and watch a movie or video. While doing this, the computer measures your brainwave output, using small sensors placed on your scalp. The sensors tell the computer when your brainwaves are outside of the desired range, based on your personal brain map.
When the beta brainwaves are too high (indicative of anxious-type thoughts) the audio and visual inputs grow dim, causing your brain to return its focus to the video. This happens hundreds of times per minute over a typical 30 -minute training session.
As you can imagine, over time your brain learns to “stay within the lines” even when you’re not actually training. Just like riding a bike, with training you get better and better at it.
Once the brain learns to stay balanced (it usually takes three to four weeks for initial changes to happen) you begin to feel calmer and more in control. The effects are long-lasting, since neurofeedback creates actual change in the way your brain works, just like physical exercise can build muscle mass with a proper regimen.
Compared to traditional therapies, neurofeedback is safe, long lasting, and has no side effects. The technology was first used in 1972 to eliminate epilepsy.
If you’re looking for a provider to give you a drug-free approach to ending your anxiety, go to BCIA.org and look under the practitioner tab.
Dr. Ed Carlton is founder of the Carlton Neurofeedback Center and author of the book “The Answer.” “My first degree is engineering. Neurofeedback is a cross between medicine and engineering, using the best of both to provide relief for my patients. The Answer explains how neurofeedback stopped my bipolar symptoms, and how it can help others do the same.”
[The content provided through this article and www.nydailynews.com should be used for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice. Always seek the advice of a relevant professional with any questions about any health decision you are seeking to make.]
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