How Can Neurofeedback Help With Anxiety?
Individuals with anxiety have a chronically hyperaroused central nervous system. In a majority of cases disposition towards anxious behavior is genetic in origin. Any powerful trauma to the central nervous system or prolonged stress can result in chronic anxiety and/or panic attacks. Anxiety reduces immune system function, impairs working memory, creates attentional problems and generates a wide variety of physical symptoms that vary from person to person. As many as 60% of doctor visits may have their basis in the effects of prolonged anxiety. Individuals tend to block out the feelings of anxiety over time, but the physical stress it creates for the body continues to increase until physical problems develop. Most people are very surprised to discover that what they thought was purely a physical problem is primarily due to chronic anxiety. It is only in the last decade that the full impact that anxiety has on the human biology is coming to be appreciated.
Anxiety results in an overactive brain. Individuals tend to worry or ruminate excessively and are hypervigilent. This causes increased brain activity that is chronic and results in excessive consumption of oxygen, glucose, and neurotransmitters as well as a host of nutrients. The effect of this appears in PET scans as well as topographic EEG braimaps. The heightened level of metabolic activity also results in higher levels of fast brain wave activity known as beta brainwave activity. We call this condition "brain too fast" in contrast to depression in which the brain is running too slow.
With neurofeedback the goal is to train the brain to slow down and operate in a more optimal zone of functioning. As the brain practices being in this more efficient zone of operation it begins to grow networks that help it regulate itself better when it is not practicing in the clinic. Over time this new zone of operation becomes the default or normal zone of operation. The symptoms of anxiety progressively dissipate as the individual trains and the brain normalizes functions.