Anxiety disorders and depression are two of the most common mental illnesses in the United States. In fact, approximately 40 million Americans live with some form of anxiety and more than 16 million Americans have had at least one depressive episode in a given year. When left untreated, both conditions can change the structure of your brain, shrinking parts of the mind that regulate cognitive function and rational thinking. In addition, anxiety disorders can make your brain overly reactive to threats and more likely to hold onto negative memories. Depression can inflame the brain and cause brain cells to malfunction.
Luckily, brain science practices like neurofeedback can help improve the way your brain functions, helping you control anxiety and better manage symptoms of depression.
What is Neurofeedback?
Neurofeedback, also referred to as EEG biofeedback or Neurotherapy, is a specialized treatment that uses advanced computer technology to “balance” the brain and improve the way your mind functions through intensive brain training exercises. Even though neurofeedback can create long-term changes in the brain, Neurotherapy is a simple, painless, and non-invasive process.
Neurofeedback uses your brain’s natural ability to learn new things to help heal and retrain your mind. Basically, you learn to alter your brain activity the same way you learn every other skill: through feedback and practice.
Luckily, for the most part, the technology does all the work. All you have to do is sit back, relax, and watch a movie or video. As you watch the screen, 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. Brainwaves that are too high indicate anxious thoughts. Each time your brainwaves get too high, the video you’re watching grows dim. That feedback encourages your brain to focus on the video rather than the anxious thoughts. In the average 30-minute training session, this happens hundreds of times, giving your brain time to practice and improve on the feedback you received while watching the video. After about 3 to 4 weeks of sessions, the brain learns to “stay within the lines” and maintain balance, helping you feel calmer and better able to control your thoughts.
Scientists believe neurofeedback, combined with other forms of biofeedback, can help improve anxiety and depression. In fact, one particular study revealed that after 30 neurofeedback sessions and heart rate variability training, 57% of people with severe anxiety, and 45% of people with severe depression showed normal brain activity.
Neurofeedback Therapy For Anxiety
Anxiety sufferers tend to have repetitive, negative thoughts that make them feel like they’re in a constant state of fear or dread. Medication can help ease symptoms, but the relief is temporary and the side effects can be severe. Therapy can take years to work and may require revisiting painful memories and past trauma to yield positive change. Neurofeedback is an all-natural, pain-free way to relieve anxiety that has long-term positive results.
Neurofeedback Can Help Reverse Hyperactive Responses in Anxious Brains
Scientists have discovered that neurofeedback can help enhance the connectivity between the ventrolateral prefrontal cortex (vlPFC) and the amygdala. In healthy brains, these areas of the brain work together to analyze and react to social and environmental cues. When you experience a potential threat, the amygdala sends signals throughout the brain, activating the ventrolateral prefrontal cortex, which helps your brain respond to the situation appropriately. Anxiety weakens the connection between the vlPFC and the amygdala, making you less likely to respond to the threat rationally. Neurofeedback can enhance the connection between these parts of the brain. With the connection restored, the ventrolateral prefrontal cortex can effectively provide the amygdala with an appropriate, rational, and logical response to potential threats, lessening the impulsive, hyperactive responses commonly associated with anxiety.
Neurofeedback Can Help Calm Overactive Brain Cells
Living in a constant state of anxiety can over-activate the cells in your brain. In non-anxious brains, the amygdala and the hippocampus, another part of the brain, have a balanced dialogue with each other, allowing you to separate good emotional experiences from bad experiences. Overactive brain cells caused by anxiety, however, keep your brain in a constant state of fight or flight response, making you more prone to remember and hold onto negative experiences over positive ones. Neurofeedback lets your brain spot this overreaction. Consistently receiving this kind of feedback “teaches” your brain cells how to calm down. As your brain cells become less reactive, you’ll be able to more easily separate good experiences from negative situations and feel less compelled to live in a constant state of flight or fight response.
Neurofeedback Therapy For Depression
Depression can happen for many reasons, but scientists have discovered that depression tends to occur when there’s an imbalance between the amount of activity in the left and right frontal lobes of the brain. Instead of having balanced activity on both sides of the brain, people who suffer from depression have slow brainwave activity in the left frontal lobe, triggering symptoms like fatigue, lack of motivation, and loss of interest in daily activities. Neurofeedback helps activate the left frontal lobe and may help boost self-esteem.
Neurofeedback Can Help Improve Your Mood
Numerous studies have shown that we feel upbeat, positive, and in a good mood when the left frontal area of the brain is more active than the right frontal region. Oftentimes, people with depression have more activity in the right frontal lobe than the left, causing them to feel sad, melancholy, isolated, alone, and hopeless. Luckily, in neurofeedback sessions, your neurotherapist can target that part of the brain and intentionally train your left frontal lobe to be more active. As your brain receives positive feedback every time your left frontal lobe is activated, your mind activates your left frontal lobe more often, improving your mood and reducing symptoms of depression.
Neurofeedback Can Help Boost Self-Esteem
Constantly feeling guilty, excessively blaming yourself, and experiencing low self-esteem are common symptoms of major depressive disorder (MDD). Oftentimes, these symptoms occur when there’s low connectivity between the right anterior superior temporal and the anterior subgenual cingulate regions of the brain. Neurofeedback therapists can target and manipulate these specific regions of the brain, enhance their connectivity, and boost your self-esteem. By boosting self-esteem, neuroscientists may be able to make people less vulnerable to depression and help relieve some symptoms of depression for people already diagnosed with the condition.
Restoring the Brain Back to Optimum Health
At StoneRidge Centers, we take a unique approach to treating mental health conditions like depression and anxiety. Our mental health treatment programs combine traditional methods of clinical support such as therapy and medication with expert-level brain science. We also incorporate nutrition, exercise, and lifestyle practices to help restore the brain to its optimum state of health.
You don’t have to continue living with overwhelming symptoms of anxiety and depression. We can help. Call us today at 928-583-7799 if you or a loved one are living with anxiety, depression.
Innovative, Evidence-Based Therapies
Because mental health and addiction concerns are so often interconnected, we utilize research-based approaches with evidence-based outcomes that promote overall healing and recovery.