Anxiety and Panic Disorders

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Anxiety is more than just feeling stressed or worried. It is a serious condition, characterised by persistent excessive worry, that makes it hard for a person to cope with, and take pleasure from, daily life. We all feel anxious from time to time, but for a person with anxiety these feelings cannot be easily controlled.

Anxiety can affect people of all ages, with approximately 14% of all adults suffering from some type of anxiety disorder. Anxiety problems can affect children people too, and research suggests that about 8% of children suffer from anxiety, with symptoms starting as early as 6 years of age.

At this stage we do not know precisely what causes anxiety, however we do know that imaging studies have shown that people with anxiety have abnormal brain activity in specific regions of the brain. Research has shown that factors including a family history of anxiety, stressful events (such as changing schools, moving house, separation of parents, bullying, work stress, relationship difficulties and accident or illness), physical health problems (such as dizziness and vertigo, hormone problems, diabetes, heart disease and asthma), drug or alcohol abuse, and personality factors (such as low self-esteem, perfectionists, being easily flustered) can all serve to increase the risk of developing an anxiety disorder.

There are many different types of anxiety, but the two most common types of anxiety disorder that we help people with at The Perth Brain Centre are:

Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

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People with Generalised Anxiety Disorder feel anxious and worried most of the time, often worrying about many different things. People suffering with GAD can worry and stress about any aspects of daily life, including work, home, health and financial issues, even when there is no real cause for concern. GAD appears to affect more women than men and can occur at any time of life, including children and older people. Many people with GAD cannot identify the precise cause for their concerns but are usually aware that they have had a tendency to worry about things for a long time. People with GAD will often also report that they have difficulty thinking or concentrating, feel restless and “on edge” and will often have difficulties sleeping (such as insomnia and nightmares), as well as feeling tired and irritable. It is not unusual for people with GAD to experience dizziness, stomach aches, nausea, and headaches as well as pain and stiffness affecting the neck, jaw, shoulders and back.

Panic Disorder

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People suffering from Panic Disorders can experience panic attacks that are intense, overwhelming and uncontrollable with feelings of intense anxiety.  Symptoms may include dizziness or lightheadedness, difficulty breathing or choking, increased heart rate, feeling hot or cold, sweaty and shaky, nausea, stomach pain, heavy arms and legs, and numbness or tingling. People suffering a panic attack may also experience feelings of derealisation (feelings of unreality) or depersonalisation (feeling detached from yourself or your surroundings) as well as feeling that they are going crazy or going to die. Panic attacks can strike someone at anytime, sometimes as a result of a forthcoming event (such as preparing to go to school or work), but often unpredictably and without warning.

Treatment

Treatment can help people manage, reduce and even eliminate the symptoms of anxiety. Diagnosis is generally made by a GP. Some treatments can be provided by the doctor, or they may give a referral to a psychiatrist, psychologist or other suitably-trained healthcare professional. At The Perth Brain Centre we focus primarily on providing Neurofeedback Therapy, which was featured in Dr. Norman Doidge’s book “The Brain’s Way of Healing”, the sequel to his international best-selling book “The Brain That Changes Itself”, as an effective treatment for anxiety.

Neurofeedback is a brain-based treatment that uses a sophisticated brain-computer interface to “strengthen” or retrain the brain. Neurofeedback harnesses neuroplasticity and the brain’s natural and life-long ability to learn by training brainwaves, the tiny electrical signals produced by the brain. At The Perth Brain Centre we use QEEG brain scans to pin-point the “weak” areas of the brain. In many cases of anxiety there is too much fast brain wave activity (known as Hi-Beta Brain Waves) in a region in the middle of the brain known as the “cingulate cortex”. Neurofeedback works by “strengthening” or retraining this “weak” part of the brain by normalising brainwave activity.

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2-D QEEG Brain Map showing increased (seen as red areas) fast frequency brainwave activity seen in a patient with an anxiety disorder. This increased fast frequency brainwave activity is localised to a region of the brain known as the cingulate cortex.

“3-D QEEG brain imaging known as Loretta Analysis also showing increased (seen as red areas) fast frequency brainwave activity seen in a patient with an anxiety disorder. 3-D Loretta Analysis can help pin-point the problem areas in the brain, and in this case confirm the presence of increased fast frequency brainwave activity localised to the cingulate cortex.”

3-D QEEG brain imaging known as Loreta Analysis also showing increased (seen as red areas) fast frequency brainwave activity seen in a patient with an anxiety disorder. 3-D Loreta Analysis can help pin-point the problem areas in the brain, and in this case confirm the presence of increased fast frequency brainwave activity localised to the cingulate cortex.

 

Neurofeedback is suitable for people of almost all ages. Patients sit comfortably and relax during training whilst sensors precisely detect and measure brainwave activity. This information is analysed in real-time and presented as audio and visual feedback which is used to “strengthen” and retrain the brain. Changing the brain takes time but people often notice improvements within a few sessions.

In addition to office-based Neurofeedback Therapy, many patients find that HeartMath HRV Biofeedback (a proven stress-management programme that can be practised at home) is also very helpful in reducing anxiety. Aside from these “high-tech solutions” we also provide advice about diet and exercise, breathing techniques, relaxation and sleep. In some cases it can also be helpful to consult with our psychologist and we are of course very happy to work alongside other healthcare professionals in the best interest of all our patients.

To discover how we can help you please call to arrange an appointment on (08) 6500 3277 now.