Generalized Anxiety Disorder
With our common cultural norms of overworking, under exercising and poor diet, we have suffered the consequences in the form of stress and stress related disorders. You could say we have a generalized anxiety disorder in the world today.
Anxiety disorders are one of the most common mental health conditions in the United States, and a major public health problem in the world. According to large population-based surveys, up to 33.7% of the population are affected by an anxiety disorder during their lifetime. Substantial underrecognition and undertreatment of these disorders have been demonstrated.1
The general heading of anxiety includes panic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, specific phobias, and separation anxiety disorder.
One study estimated the annual cost of anxiety disorders in the United States to be approximately $42.3 billion in the 1990s, a majority of which was due to non-psychiatric medical treatment costs. This estimate focused on short-term effects and did not include the effect of outcomes such as the increased risk of other disorders.2
The History of Anxiety Treatment
Conventional treatment for anxiety disorders has had a nefarious history, beginning with the trend in psychiatry in the 1950’s to prescribe sedatives en masse. Benzodiazepine medications are the most common form of pharmacological intervention, and unfortunately come with a host of problems including quick tolerance and need for higher dosage, risk for addiction, and severe withdrawal syndrome with prolonged use.
This class of drugs is now known to cause a temporary overproduction of the neurotransmitter GABA, our nervous systems main sedative neuromolecule, then a subsequent and rapid drop in GABA levels, resulting in rebound anxiety and a need for more of the drug in a hurry to stabilize the nervous system. Nasty side effects are also possible and prevalent: psychosis, delirium, seizures, slurred speech, panic attacks, hallucinations, increased risk of suicide, weakness, impaired coordination, and vertigo.
With the known risks of sedative medications, treatment strategies are increasingly shifting towards alternative forms of medicine. Neurofeedback, Acupuncture, Stress and Relaxation Techniques, Yoga, and Meditation are effective therapies for treating the symptoms, and getting to the root of anxiety.
For anxiety patients, learning how to self- modulate chronic stress without the aid of drugs can provide a solid path to freedom from anxiety, and from the side effects and tolerance that develop with medication.
The Role of Neurofeedback
With neurofeedback, the brain learns to moderate it’s stress response and to create a healthy pattern in it’s place. The process is painless and easy. Small sensors are placed on the scalp and the brainwaves are then measured and displayed on a monitor. A person learns to control these brainwaves to achieve a desired state. Often times the brain waves are rewarded with different forms of feedback including movies, video games or even the individual’s favorite music.
Studies on Neurofeedback and Anxiety
Some studies have been done showing neurofeedback to be effective for anxiety disorders. Though each of these studies show promise, more research needs to be done. Here are a few to get you started:
Neurofeedback with anxiety and affective disorders – DC Hammond – Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Clinics, 2005
Frontal alpha asymmetry neurofeedback for the reduction of negative affect and anxiety– R Mennella, E Patron, D Palomba – Behaviour research and therapy, 2017
Treatment of anxiety disorder with neurofeedback: case study– A Moradi, F Pouladi, N Pishva, B Rezaei… – Procedia-Social and …, 2011
For additional resources, visit the google scholar search results page.
Neurofeedback for Anxiety Disoreders in Northern Colorado
1 Bandelow B, Michaelis S. Epidemiology of anxiety disorders in the 21st century. Dialogues Clin Neurosci. 2015;17(3):327–335.
2 Greenberg PE, Sisitsky T, Kessler RC, Finkelstein SN, Berndt ER, Davidson JR, Ballenger JC, Fyer AJ. The economic burden of anxiety disorders in the 1990s. J Clin Psychiatry 1999;60(7):427–35.
Updated February 2020