Anxiety, the simplest and most common of disturbances, is experienced by people of all ages. It can be mild or severe, persistent or occasional, or turn into panic attacks. It may be tied to specific occasions, such as when a child is left alone, is going to sleep, before going to school, work, social situations, and so on, or it may be pervasive, experienced all the time for no apparent reason.

Anxiety provides a good example of our need for a new understanding of so-called mental disorders and the way to approach their treatment. What and where is it? Is it in the mind? Is it physical, a problem of brain chemistry? The great majority of cases of anxiety respond rapidly to neurofeedback. This tells that whatever the cause, anxiety is a systemic disturbance of the brain’s electrical functioning. This may result from a variety of life experiences including trauma, but in some cases it seems people were just born that way.

This new understanding points to a new, multi-modality way of approaching treatment for anxiety. The first approach should be neurofeedback because this addresses the most basic systemic level of functioning. After a brief series of neurofeedback treatments we can see to what extent the anxiety is relieved. Often the entire problem, including panic attacks, is eliminated. If not, causes for persistence of the problem may become more clear. 

If there was a difficult or traumatic birth, or a head injury, craniosacral therapy or cranial osteopathy would be the next approach. If there was a specific trauma, EMDR may be helpful; in the case of phobias and situational-specific anxiety, cognitive behavioral therapy may help. And when there has been a complex of situations and experiences, psychotherapy may be called for. The efficacy of these other forms of therapy is greatly enhanced by a preliminary series of neurofeedback sessions.

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