Anxiety means different things to different people. Some people suffer from physical symptoms, such as a pounding heart or sweating, while others suffer from acute emotional symptoms. Anxiety can be unpredictable and exhausting. It affects our cognitive functioning and directly impacts our ability to learn, remember, and even sleep.
However you experience anxiety, your symptoms are rooted in chemical processes within the brain. A structure deep in your limbic system called the amygdala regulates your stress response to every type of incoming information. It does this by determining what may be threatening and then reacting. This could be information from the environment around you, a person, a thought or feeling you have, or just about anything else. It all passes through this emotional control area, where the amygdala chooses either a “safe mode” or “fight and flight” response.
How does anxiety affect my brain?
Because of our high-paced, stressful modern environment and the ongoing stressors impacting the body every second of every day, the body can become overloaded and our brainwaves can become abnormal. This most commonly occurs as a result of overstimulation. This irregularity, often found in people suffering from anxiety can create abnormal responses to incoming stimuli. Neurofeedback has been shown to normalize these irregular brainwaves.
Why it’s important to get treatment
Unchecked anxiety can take over your life, keeping you in a perpetual state of “fight or flight“. When this happens, it can become difficult to make healthier, practical, rational decisions or choices in all aspects of your life.
In order to move past anxiety and lead a balanced, calm life, you need to switch your amygdala back to ‘normal’ mode. Talk therapy does this indirectly by giving you the tools to combat anxious thoughts and keep them in check. Neurofeedback training works in a more direct way to help the brain to balance brainwave frequencies that are related to anxiety. After a course of Neurofeedback, clients find that they have improved sleep, decreased sensitivity to anxiety-triggering stimuli and are better able to handle stress.
How is anxiety usually treated?
The standard treatment is the prescription of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) also known as anti-depressants. These work to stimulate the production of serotonin – the “feel good” neurotransmitter. Instead of treating the source of anxious thoughts in the amygdala, this medication works by smothering them in serotonin-derived happy thoughts. In the short term, these are effective in helping a patient “feel good”, but they don’t actually correct the problem. As time goes by, many sufferers build up a tolerance for the medication and anxious thoughts return. Neurofeedback works differently by going straight to the source of the problem and correcting it.