We’re all familiar with the physical changes associated with anxiety. You feel anxious or afraid, your body responds with hormones that speed up your heart and respiration, make your mouth dry, and slow down digestion. These are some of the sympathetic nervous system’s response to ready the body for “fight or flight.”
Once the feeling of anxiety passes, the parasympathetic nervous system takes over, calming the body down for rest and recovery.
But what happens if your brain is in a constant state of worry? The fight or flight mode can become your natural state if your brainwaves are imbalanced. Anxiety sufferers tend to have repetitive, negative thoughts that create a chronic state of fear or dread. This type of brainwave activity is usually related to excessive beta brainwave activity in the right side of the brain. This activity can now be measured, using a QEEG (quantitative electro-encephalogram). This is also known as a “brain map.”
Up to now, the standard approach to these issues is either medications, therapy, or both. Medications can be effective in easing the symptoms caused by an anxious brain.
However, the effects are temporary, and side effects can be severe. Therapy sessions can take years, and require sometimes painful revisiting of past traumas in order to produce change.
Neurofeedback training is an all-natural approach that can create long-term changes in brain function. These changes go to the source of the anxiety — imbalanced brainwaves in the brain itself.
The process is simple. Neurofeedback uses your brain’s natural ability to learn new things to help it heal. From a branch of psychology known as behaviorism, neurofeedback uses a system of audio and visual feedback to re-train your brain, and bring it back to balance.
All you have to do is sit back, relax, and watch a movie or video. While doing this, the computer measures your brainwave output, using small sensors placed on your scalp. The sensors tell the computer when your brainwaves are outside of the desired range, based on your personal brain map.
When the beta brainwaves are too high (indicative of anxious-type thoughts) the audio and visual inputs grow dim, causing your brain to return its focus to the video. This happens hundreds of times per minute over a typical 30 -minute training session.
As you can imagine, over time your brain learns to “stay within the lines” even when you’re not actually training. Just like riding a bike, with training you get better and better at it.
Once the brain learns to stay balanced (it usually takes three to four weeks for initial changes to happen) you begin to feel calmer and more in control. The effects are long-lasting, since neurofeedback creates actual change in the way your brain works, just like physical exercise can build muscle mass with a proper regimen.
Compared to traditional therapies, neurofeedback is safe, long lasting, and has no side effects. The technology was first used in 1972 to eliminate epilepsy.
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