Neurofeedback for Anxiety Disorder
I know this seems like a weird place to post a blog about Neurofeedback (NF) so let me explain. I am a self-published author (the House of Phoenyx series available on Amazon... and by the time you read this it will probably be on nook and all other SMASHWORD digital programs), and in this series I write about a character Percaline Golden who has a panic disorder. The books are young adult fiction but despite that, this seemed like the natural place to tell everyone about my direct neurofeedback experience for anxiety.
I was diagnosed with a panic disorder in March of 2008 (yes, 8 years ago). I made it through that episode by cutting all caffeine from my diet and being careful when it came to my triggers: 911 calls, school shootings, 9-11, claustrophobia inducers, and situational claustrophobia inducers (Situational claustrophobia is a term I use. It means that if you tell me that I have to do something I will panic, but if there is no pressure put on the topic I'll be just fine. i.e. if you tell me I must go a meeting I'll panic but if the meeting is optional I have no problem attending). Weird right? Yes, unless you have a panic or anxiety disorder and then you know exactly what I mean. The point is I don't like feeling trapped in any form.
The next episode I had was last year in March 2014. After going 7 years managing panic, I thought I was okay...I was wrong. I started to experience anxiety for the first time and yes I consider panic and anxiety different. To me I can feel panic coming on and I know how to control it (try to force yourself to panic more and wala the panic is gone). Anxiety, on the other hand is a constant state and there is no getting out of it.
I was in a hypersensitive state for over a month; dilated eyes, sensitive hearing, jumping when something moved expectantly. I went to my primary physician just to find out that I had a panic disorder, but like I said I already knew that. I started going to therapy because although I don't feel my panic disorder is something that therapy will help I was to the point of trying anything. I didn't want to live with anxiety anymore and I was irritated, and still am, that it has manifested from nothing despite what my doctors say!
The doctors tried to give me every form of anti-anxiety medication there was. Most of them had the opposite affect making me more anxious except for Klonopin which worked but I had to sleep it off otherwise I was depressed the next day. I even tried an SRI and it literally made me want to crawl out of my skin. I tried one pill and said no more for me. I have Klonopin and I take it as needed (which for me is never) but I keep it in case I go into another hypersensitive state. God bless all of you who take medication and it works. For me it doesn’t that’s all I’m saying—no judgment.
It has now been a year since my last episode and I still have anxiety daily. I use medical leave at my "real job" almost weekly and I don't get paid for it. I'm afraid to look for another job because I don't know who else will work with my anxiety issues. Anxiety also prevents me from doing things that other people take for granted like going to a concert or to the movies. I experience an amplified amount of anxiety if the exit is not visible or if the means of escape is too far (i.e. a parking lot that is two blocks away). My knees get weak and start shaking, I can't breath, and my eyes and thoughts start racing.
About a month ago I kept fainting. I went to the doctor and she said it wasn't anxiety because anxiety won't actually make you pass-out. I had BP of 90/60 for three weeks despite drinking 32oz of water hourly and to this day no one can explain why. I tell you this because for years I have been trying to explain that my anxiety is worse and directly related to my allergies. My first episode was in March 2008, my next episode was in March 2014, my fainting spells were in April 2015...see a pattern? All big allergy months in Colorado.
I feel dizzy almost constantly, my BP gets low, my brain is foggy, my ears itchy, I get a headache, I'm nauseated, and before all of the episodes I experienced some type of rash. All of these could be anxiety or they could be allergies causing anxiety??? Either way I want them gone and since I'm too scared to move away from Colorado and my support system I decided to address anxiety (let's face it--it's way worse anyway).
My mom heard about direct neurofeedback from a show called the Doctors. She told me about it and I Googled "Direct Neurofeedback Colorado" and a center specializing in neurofeedback popped up. I looked at their description online and after seeing they treated anxiety I called and made an appointment. I won't tell you how much I paid because anyone suffering from a panic disorder and anxiety will tell you that they would give you everything they had not to live with anxiety anymore and I'm no different. The money doesn't matter nor does the method. If you tell me to plant magic beans and they'll get rid of my anxiety I would do it. I'm open to everything and anything.
My first appointment was yesterday. I went in the morning because that's when my anxiety is the worst (and yes it is effected by sleep and sleep effected by it). The very first thing I did when I got to the office was read the letters of success. I was trying to stay positive and hopeful and the letters helped maintain that.
The doctor took me into his office to explain everything (my dad was with me too). He explained that there are different things that he does based on the brain mapping results. There's a hand bicycle type of thing that you do and an electric pulse massager type of thing (these have fancy names but that's what they sounded like to me). There's also the actual neurofeedback where they put a cap on your head and rewire your brain (I think?). For people who don't know your brain is like a computer. People like me have a virus that causes the computer to behave in interesting ways. The computer needs to be shutdown so it can be brought up and your default setting reestablished instead of the setting it was changed to (i.e. my bad brain behavior). Note: Maybe shutdown isn't the right word but I'm hoping you understand the point I'm trying to make. My brain makes bad pathways and needs to be reset.
Your brain is your Central Nervous System (CNS). There are four things that make it run (I can't remember them otherwise I'd list them). All four things I have issues with. Within two minutes of meeting the doctor he already knew I failed two of those four. The other two he gave be an exam for. I ended up failing those as well.
The doctor told me that I had BAD BRAIN and every letter stands for something. Bowel, Anxiety, Depression, Reflexes (?), Indigestion (?), and so forth. I had ALL of them.
Again with my dad in the room the doctor put me through a series of tests. What I found out was that the left side of my brain is worse than the right although both are bad. I have had the shakes since I was a baby. Everyone always called me a nervous kid, but the doctor says I wasn't a nervous kid I have a bad CNS.
After I failed the exam the doctor took me into the brain mapping area. Here I had a cap put on my head and gel squeezed into the cap. I had to watch a little red button for six minutes without moving. That was all! I then had to do the same thing but with my eyes closed. After that the brain mapping was done!
My next appointment I will get the results of my brain mapping, I will discuss a plan for treatments (although the doctor said several times that's it's not a cure but he was 90% sure he could help me), and have the first neurofeedback session. I will let everyone know how these sessions go and if my anxiety improves as I go.
After my consultation I spoke to my dad about it. I should tell you that he is a man's man. He wasn't really supportive of what I was going through until he saw it firsthand. Now he is very supportive. We discussed this and he thinks it will help. Remember he saw me fail test after test all having to do with my CNS. We both agree that I'm going to try neurofeedback because if I don't I'll always wonder if it would have been my cure (not that there is a cure). He and I both think that if nothing else it will help some of the things I talked about earlier in the post (dizziness, foggy mind, headache, bowel movement, vision...) and that by helping those things they won't trigger my anxiety which won't trigger the panic. I am very hopeful which is more than most people with anxiety ever get to feel. Stay tuned.