Neurofeedback for Anxiety

Rewiring the Brain With Neurofeedback Therapy

The Different Faces of Anxiety

“Anxiety disorders” is an umbrella term that includes generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), panic disorder, phobias, social anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Feelings of fear and distress are normal physical responses when you are faced with severe stress or danger. However, it becomes a disorder if these feelings are prevalent almost all the time or if they become so intense that they interfere with your life. In many cases, the symptoms are frequent panic attacks, obsessive thoughts, a paralyzing phobia, or unrelenting worries.

What Part of the Brain Generates Anxiety?

Two separate pathways in the brain are involved in generating anxiety. One pathway begins in the cerebral cortex, the large, convoluted, gray part of the brain, and involves our perceptions and thoughts about situations.

The other pathway travels more directly through the amygdala (a brain structure associated with emotional processes), which triggers the fight-or-flight response. Both pathways play a role in anxiety, although some types of anxiety are more related to what is called the cortical pathway, while others may reflect greater involvement of the amygdala.

  • The cortical pathway is what most people think of when they consider the causes of anxiety. For example, suppose your thoughts are routinely filled with ideas or images that increase your anxiety, or that you obsess over doubts, become preoccupied with worries, or get stuck in trying to think of solutions to problems. In this case, you’re probably experiencing cortex-based anxiety.

  • On the other hand, the amygdala pathway doesn’t produce thoughts that you’re aware of and it operates more quickly than the cortex can. Therefore, it creates many aspects of an anxiety response without your conscious knowledge or control. In less than a tenth of a second, the amygdala can provide a surge of adrenaline, increase blood pressure and heart rate, create muscle tension, and more.

So if you feel like your anxiety has no apparent cause and doesn’t make logical sense, you’re probably experiencing the effects of anxiety arising from the amygdala pathway.

Anxiety and the Brainwave Connection

A healthy, well-balanced brain will generate appropriate brainwaves at the appropriate levels at the appropriate times.

The brain produces five types of brainwaves, which are repetitive patterns of neuronal activity: Delta, Theta, Alpha, Beta, and Gamma.