Anxiety and depression are two of the most common mental illnesses in the United States, with approximately 40 million Americans experiencing some type of anxiety and more than 16 million Americans having at least one depressive episode a year.
For those looking for an alternative method of treating depression and anxiety that does not rely on medication, neurofeedback is an effective solution to retrainthe brain and mitigate symptoms of these mental health disorders.
What is Neurofeedback Training?
Also known as electroencephalogram (EEG) biofeedback, neurofeedback utilizes the brain’s natural ability to change to help reshape weaknesses in brain function. By solving the source of the problem, your symptoms will naturally disappear, and the brain will function as it should, improving your quality of life.
Neurofeedback utilizes a 19-channel EEG to see where there is too much or too little activity in specific cortical regions of the brain. Once this information has been obtained, you will undergo 20 sessions where the brain is provided over 70,000 different opportunities to learn, which results in changes in the neuron functionality. These learning opportunities increase activity in areas that have too little and decrease activity in areas with too much.
Advancements in neurofeedback therapy now allow you to benefit from neurofeedback at home, making it easier than ever for you to retrain your brain and reduce the symptoms of your mental health conditions.
The Effect of Anxiety and Depression on the Brain
When anxiety and depression are left untreated, they can change the brain’s structure by shrinking parts of the brain responsible for regulating rational thinking and cognitive function. Anxiety disorders, in particular, can cause the brain to overreact to threats and increase the likelihood of holding onto negative memories.
Neurofeedback Therapy for Anxiety and Depression
For anxiety, the benefits experienced by neurofeedback revolve around the connection between the ventrolateral prefrontal cortex (vlPFC) and the amygdala, two areas of the brain. The interaction between these two areas allows you to analyze social and environmental cues and respond to potential threats. However, anxiety weakens this connection, making you less likely to react rationally. Neurofeedback therapy enhances the connection between the vlPFC and the amygdala, allowing you to respond rationally and lessening the impulsive, hyperactive responses common in those with anxiety.
As for depression, scientists have found that while many things can cause depression, it has a tendency to occur when there is an imbalance in activity between the left and right frontal lobes of the brain. The symptoms of depression, such as fatigue, loss of interest in daily activities, and lack of motivation, occur due to slower brainwave activity in the left frontal lobe. By training the left frontal lobe to be more active through neurofeedback training, the mind learns to activate this area more often, reducing depressive symptoms and improving your mood.
Neurofeedback vs. Medication for Treating Depression
One of the most significant complications of using medication for depression treatment is the adverse side effects that, in some cases, make the symptoms of depression even more severe.
For those who did not respond well to medication, or are looking to avoid these complications, neurofeedback therapy as a non-medication-based depression treatment is effective at treating depressive symptoms with minimal side effects. Side effects of neurofeedback may include irritability, tiredness, restlessness, or headaches, but they are short-term and typically reside within 24 hours of treatment. In comparison, medication side effects persist as long as the medication is continued.
Medication for depression only works if you take it on a regular basis, whereas neurofeedback has long-lasting effects even after you stop treatment.
If you are interested in how neurofeedback can help reduce the symptoms of anxiety or depression, call Abbey Neuropsychology Clinic at (650) 215-6840 for more information.
Sources https://medlineplus.gov/anxiety.html  https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/depression/what-is-depression  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neurofeedback