Can Neurofeedback Therapy Help With Anxiety?
You’re Not Alone
Anxiety disorders are the most common form of mental illness in the United States affecting 18% of the population.
Anxiety presentation can take the form of several symptoms such as:
- feeling nervous or restless,
- consistent worrying and difficulty controlling it,
- poor sleep,
- having a sense of impending danger,
- increased heart rate,
- shallow breathing,
- poor concentration,
- overall fatigue,
- and irritability.
These symptoms are often associated with over-activation of the sympathetic nervous system, known to be responsible for inducing the body’s “fight, flight, or freeze” stress response.
Common anxiety disorders consist of generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, separation anxiety disorder, and agoraphobia (the fear of places/situations where panic might be induced). Neurofeedback therapy helps to train brain regions that may be dysregulated in individuals with anxiety; such as the amygdala, ventral prefrontal cortex, insula, and cingulate cortex.
What The Research Shows
There is strong scientific evidence linking anxiety, panic disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder to functional brain abnormalities (PTSD). Many EEG research, summarized in earlier works, have shown that the left frontal area is more closely linked to pleasant memories and emotions, whereas the right hemisphere is more closely linked to unpleasant feelings.
A biologic predisposition to anxiety exists when there is a frontal asymmetry in brain wave activity, with more left frontal alpha activity. This imbalance with more left frontal alpha means that the left frontal area is less activated. Those who have this imbalance may be less conscious of good emotions while also being more sensitive to the negative emotions linked to the right hemisphere. In order to maintain a feeling of threat, anxious people are more likely to pay attention or interpret neutral expressions negatively.
Related Article: The 4 Things This Neuropsychologist Wants You to Do Every Day
How Neurofeedback Therapy Can Help Anxiety
Neurofeedback has been found to result in better regulation of amygdala activity; the region associated with emotional processing and fear responses. Neurofeedback is thought to decrease over-active amygdala activity; thus resulting in a reduction of anxiety and phobias.
In one study, alpha training was found to increase alpha production from 64% to 78%, and anxiety scores dropped significantly.
Individuals with anxiety may also exhibit too much beta wave activity, the brain wave activity associated with being awake and alert. Following neurofeedback training, individuals exhibit significantly lower anxiety levels, lower beta activity, and lower insula activation compared to control groups. Using the technology in TouchPoints (bi-lateral alternating stimulation in tactile form or BLAST) has also been shown to lower excess beta activity and may be a helpful adjunct to the treatment of anxiety with neurofeedback.
Neurofeedback appears to result in clear brain physiological changes that impact fear responses, leading to overall less anxiety and distressing symptoms.
- Martin et al., 2009; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3684250/
- Hammond, 2005; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15564054
- Pavlenko et al., 2009; https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11062-010-9111-2
- Zilverstand et al., 2015; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4458693/
If you are located in the Metro Phoenix Arizona area, Serin Center has two offices located in Peoria, AZ, and Scottsdale, AZ that can provide testing for Dyscalculia and provide Independent Educational Evaluations. Contact us today to discuss how we can help.
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