Anxiety, Fear, Panic Attacks, Nervousness

If you’re experiencing anxiety or panic attacks, it’s time to learn about neurofeedback.

Neurofeedback and biofeedback are arguably two of the most powerful tools for reducing anxiety and panic attacks. Clients we see have often done it all — from medications to meditation, from yoga to diet and exercise, to alcohol and stress reduction techniques.

Brain training (neurofeedback) is NOT about training you to manage your stress. Instead, it helps train the part of your brain that CONTROLS stress. When people are dealing with anxiety, part of their brain is simply not doing its job of keeping them calm.  How do you change that part of the brain?  That’s where neurofeedback comes in.

Biofeedback and EEG neurofeedback are two of the quickest and fastest ways to teach you how to help yourself. These technologies have been used for many years with solid proven results. You can learn how to decrease anxiety and remain calmer with neurofeedback.

How can you tell if you’re experiencing anxiety? 

Anxiety can take many forms. It can include excessive worrying, a nagging sense of fear, negative thinking, and defensiveness.  Your heart might race, your hands might sweat, and you might find it hard to breathe.  You can also feel restless or overly emotional.

In addition, if you or a loved one experience addiction, perfectionism, control, or behavioral issues, anxiety could be at the root of the problem.

Anxiety sufferers are often overwhelmed, exhausted, and stressed out. Some can’t concentrate due to their intense internal focus. Others obsess about specific things.

If you appear nervous, it’s likely people know you’re anxious. Yet many people who are anxious can hide their anxiety.  They appear calm, yet they can’t quiet their mind. They may have worries or perhaps they just can’t slow down their thinking. The constant internal chatter can get so bad that it interrupts their sleep and steals their quality of life. They don’t live in the present; they constantly worry about the future or live in the past.

Panic attacks can inhibit everyday life, causing increased fear of leaving one’s home, threatening a general sense of safety, and sending people to emergency rooms because the physical symptoms of a panic attack can feel so much like a heart attack.

What about Medications for Anxiety?

Anxiety patients are regularly prescribed medications. But medications don’t teach you new and healthier patterns. In fact, they promote a lack of self-awareness. You don’t learn to quiet your mind or how to be calm.

Even with medications, anxiety frequently still persists. The medications just reduce symptoms. And side effects can also be an issue.

When you stop medications, it’s likely the anxiety will remain. Sometimes, when you stop medications there’s a “rebound” effect and the anxiety gets worse. That doesn’t prove you need more medication — but your brain may have become used to having medications and developed a dependency. Certain anti-anxiety medications are addictive. With long-term use of medications, it can be very stressful to get off them. 

If the medication stops working or side effects occur, physicians often switch patients’ medication. This can cause agitation and confusion while getting used to the newest drug.

As an alternative to medications, neurofeedback can often help people reduce or eliminate drugs for anxiety as their brains become more stable.

Brain Mapping:  Identifying Problem Areas in Your Brain

A process called brain mapping can identify problematic areas of your brain and help target neurofeedback treatment to the areas that need it most.

There are different types of brain maps. An EEG-based map helps identify problems with EEG timing. Certain patterns in a brain map are also known to highly correlate with anxiety.

Teach Your Brain to Be Calm

How do you keep things from bothering you? Or from triggering you? Or from becoming stuck in a pattern of worrying?  People who don’t worry try to tell you not to be anxious. But your brain simply doesn’t work that way. Telling you to “just be calm” is not helpful. If it was that easy, you’d already do it.

When you have anxiety, the parts of your brain that are supposed to keep you calm aren’t working so well.  Neurofeedback helps train your brain to work better and more efficiently.

Medications don’t train you to be calm. Neurofeedback can help your brain learn how to be calm and stay calm over time.

Other biofeedback tools are also helpful with anxiety — even tools you can use at home such as heart rate variability training. Our clients can try these tools out to see which ones work best.

The key is practice. The more your central nervous system learns how to be calm through neurofeedback, the more it becomes a sustained skill.

Less Medication?

As the brain learns to decrease anxiety and remain calmer, less medication is generally needed. In this way, learning this life-long skill can help decrease medication dependence.

We treat many patients who are struggling to get off their anti-anxiety medications. Neurofeedback often plays an important role in helping people reduce the use of medications by helping their brain learn the skill of being calmer.  Many clients who’ve trained with neurofeedback report that issues bother them less, their mind is quieter, and they recover from stressful events far faster.

We do not advocate patients stopping medication without medical advice. Abruptly stopping some medication can induce a seizure, so proper, medically-supervised weaning is imperative.

How does neurofeedback reduce anxiety?

Neurofeedback training can help change your brainwaves. It measures the rhythms of your own brain — and rewards you when you make more or less of certain patterns.

For example, a recording of an EEG map for a client showed an excessively fast brain pattern. This 55-year-old woman literally could not slow her brain down easily. She could not quiet her mind, and she experienced a great deal of fear and anxiety. The solution was to measure her brain activity and provide a computer game to help train her brain to calm down.

An example of this is a Pac-man game we use that beeps whenever someone makes slower EEG activity. It teaches  how to slow down the brain. By practicing slowing down brain activity, you can learn to be calm. With our coaching, you learn how to recreate this state on your own.

With the proper amount of training, the brain learns to maintain healthier patterns.  Learning to correct anxiety by producing healthier neurological patterns takes awareness, practice, and reinforcement.

Neurofeedback facilitates awareness, provides reinforcement, and allows one to monitor the quality of practice during a training session. Because we are neurologically hard-wired to return to balance, as learning takes place you are able to decrease and/or eliminate anxiety.

As learning improves, you can begin decreasing your brain training schedule. Most clients can stop training once they reach their goals and the training is holding. A small number of clients with persistent or extremely resistant or complex issues require occasional “tune ups” or a greatly-reduced, maintenance training schedule.

Why am I only now learning about brain training?

There is a resurgence in biofeedback and neurofeedback, particularly for anxiety, because it’s effective.

In the 1980’s, biofeedback was popular for anxiety and stress reduction and was used by many professionals. The decrease in popularity was not due to poor results. It was caused by a decision by insurances companies to cut the rate of reimbursement for this treatment by approximately 75%!

Over the years, technology and knowledge about the brain have made incredible advances. Brain biofeedback researchers and practitioners apply this knowledge and continue to hone neurofeedback technology into an increasingly more effective teaching tool.

With brain training, you learn to moderate your response to stress so that anxiety is minimized and occurs less frequently. Neurofeedback helps put the control for your life back in your hands. No one wants to be affected by thoughts and emotions that negatively impact life and that you feel you can’t do anything about. Neurofeedback helps calm the over-reactive patterns that make life more difficult and helps you take charge of your life.