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Neurofeedback for Anxiety: Does it work?

neurofeedback for anxiety does it work

Anxiety disorders are among the most common types of mental disorders in the United States, affecting 18.1% of adults and 25.1% of children between 13 and 18. Although conventional therapy and medication are the most common treatments for anxiety, more practitioners now offer neurofeedback as an option. Neurofeedback, also called Neurotherapy, is an alternative therapy that uses biofeedback to treat various mental health diagnoses.

Although the effects of stress and illness on the brain have been studied for years, Neurotherapy was still considered fringe science until recently. Now, it’s more accessible with the evolution of technology, and many small studies have shown that neurofeedback training resulted in reduced anxiety.

What is neurofeedback?

Neurofeedback is essentially a method to retrain the brain. Clients learn through guided exercises how to transform brain wave patterns from abnormal to healthy. In doing this, the brain can stabilize and operate more efficiently.

In the 1960s, it was discovered that people could control their brainwave patterns, but it hasn’t been until recently that it has become a well-known practice. Thanks to advances in computer technology, it is becoming a useful tool in a growing number of clinics because it allows therapists to target a wide range of mental health conditions.

How neurofeedback works for anxiety

Most people are familiar with the physical symptoms of anxiety; we’ve all experienced heart palpitations, profuse sweating, scattered thoughts, and rapid breathing at some point. In most cases, it is short-lived. For people who live with an anxiety disorder, this stress is ongoing and takes an incredible toll on their bodies and minds.

Our everyday environment is loaded with stressors that impact the body 24/7, which means we can quickly become overloaded and overstimulated, resulting in abnormal brain waves. This irregularity is common in people who live with anxiety, as they experience overstimulation more often. Neurofeedback has been shown to normalize these brainwaves.

Our brains are incredibly adaptable. They are capable of making adjustments when given cues about what needs to be changed. Brainwaves show particular patterns when the brain is regulating itself well. During Neurotherapy, the brain attempts to maintain this well-regulated state and gradually learns to stay in this state for increased periods. Sessions at our treatment center last about 30 minutes. The number of sessions needed to treat anxiety varies from person to person, but the average is about 20 sessions. Typically, the young brain is easier to train than an older one because long-term symptoms take longer to treat.

Advances in software and brainwave monitoring equipment have made it possible for neurofeedback clinicians to access affordable precision tools. After more than 50 years of development, the methods are sophisticated and highly effective.

Neurofeedback and anxiety in children

Anxiety in children can manifest itself in behavioral issues and acting out. These behaviors are especially pervasive in younger children who are still learning to communicate effectively. Neurotherapy has been successful in reducing behaviors. With neurofeedback, the brain can process information more efficiently, and as a result, behavioral episodes are less likely to occur. Neurofeedback has also been found in many cases to improve focus and help children get a better night’s sleep.

Many parents prefer Neurotherapy because it is an alternative to medication. Neurofeedback is typically done on-site in a clinic. It’s also become available in the form of wearable technology, games, and apps designed for younger children in the last few years. This type of technology involves a visual aspect so that kids can see what they’re feeling in real-time and learn through repetition to manage their anxiety and frustration, which might have previously led to outbursts and meltdowns.

Why choose neurofeedback for anxiety?

One of the primary reasons people seeking mental health treatment are interested in neurofeedback is because they’re looking for an option other than medication. While medication is a viable and practical choice for many, it often treats the symptoms and doesn’t correct the root of the issue, which lies within the brain. Neurofeedback is a drug-free treatment, but it’s been found to be most effective when used in conjunction with other treatments, such as individual and group therapy, and in many cases-medication. Many times, clients can reduce other therapies as needed after several sessions of Neurotherapy.

A report on the effectiveness of neurofeedback on mood or anxiety disorders in adults found that there was a “statistically significant improvement in symptoms with neurofeedback treatment in clients with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)” compared to those who had received no treatment at all.

The treatment is non-invasive and painless. It involves learning to modify brain activity by the same means that any other skill is learned- through practice, repetition, and feedback. With neurofeedback, the information about changes in your brain’s electrical activity is instantaneous. It’s a way to train the brain to reduce anxiety at the source. All Neurotherapy sessions at our clinic are individualized to our clients’ needs.

Like any treatment method, not everyone will benefit from neurofeedback or respond to it the same way.

It can be beneficial for people who:

  • Have a history of being non-responsive to drug treatments
  • Have had adverse effects on medications
  • Are seeking a natural alternative to medication
  • Would benefit from neurofeedback as a supplement to current treatment

As with any treatment, there are potential side effects. You may experience:

  • Fatigue
  • Low energy
  • Brain fog
  • Headaches
  • Head pressure

Some people experience increased anxiety or depression while adapting to treatment. If you have any concerns about side effects or are having severe symptoms, please consult your clinician immediately.

Neurotherapy is open to all clients at our treatment facility. If you’re interested in learning more, please contact Compassion Behavioral Health today.