Fear, worry, and anxiety are normal emotions that are part of everyday living. They are necessary to our survival and, “keep us on our toes.” When they persist for a long period of time, they begin to work against us. Persistent worrying, mistaken or exaggerated evaluation of danger, and impaired personal interactions can all be signs of anxiety.
Studies show that anxiety disorders are more likely to co-occur with other disorders, and this has important clinical implications in diagnosis and treatment. The presence of anxiety disorders in conjunction with other disorders is associated with a more persistent course of disturbance, increase in symptom severity, and increased impairment in social, occupational, or other major areas of daily functioning. Examples of comorbid disorders include depression, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADD/ADHD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), Tourette’s Syndrome, traumatic brain injury (TBI) as well as attachment and oppositional disorders.
Advances in understanding the nature of anxiety disorders played a key role in the development of innovative treatments such as neurofeedback. Compelling evidence shows unusually large decreases in alpha activity as well as temporal lobe abnormalities in individuals with anxiety.
Traditional treatments for anxiety disorders include medications, psychotherapy (counseling), as well as stress and relaxation training. Although talk therapy promotes the healing of psychological issues, not all conditions improve through this intervention alone. Similarly, many patients do not respond favorably to pharmacological approaches and may experience negative side effects.
In contrast, neurofeedback works directly with the brain to allow individuals to recognize, monitor and self-regulate brain wave activity. This leads to long-lasting improvement in health and quality of life.
Neurofeedback has been found to be an efficacious intervention for anxiety since it directly modulates the specific brain regions in which dysfunction contributes to the disorder. Specifically, alpha and theta enhancement training has been found to be effective as this training produces significant improvements in clinical symptoms. Neurofeedback is a non-invasive approach that addresses the underlying biological factors associated with anxiety without the side effects of medication.
General biofeedback consists of traditional modalities such as heart rate variability, hand warming and breathing monitoring. The goal is to teach individuals how to activate their parasympathetic nervous system and deactivate their sympathetic nervous system thus calming themselves in what previously would have been volatile situations. This is extremely beneficial for clients experiencing anxiety since it helps calm the body and control symptoms.