Medications for anxiety are very problematic due to their side effects, compliance rates, and the consequences of taking them over a long period. They can cause a variety of troublesome or even dangerous side effects, including:

  • Liver toxicity
  • Weight gain
  • Rashes
  • Fatigue
  • Sexual side effects
  • Feeling “flat and robotic”
  • Brain fog
  • Anxiety/depression
  • Panic attacks

In turn, patients may be prescribed even more medications to counteract the side effects of the original one.

Taking medications for anxiety or bipolar disorder over the long term can have very negative consequences. 

First, many patients develop a tolerance to their medication, requiring increased dosage to obtain the same benefit they received initially. This increased dosage also brings an increased risk of side effects. Sometimes, tolerance is so excellent that the medication no longer helps at all. Alternately, others develop a reliance on bipolar medication. These drugs influence the brain and the central nervous system in order to improve mood, energy, sleep, and concentration. Unfortunately, the brain starts to rely on medication to regulate those issues and does not learn how to cope on its own.

Brain training with neurofeedback intends to teach the brain how to create healthier patterns and maintain a more consistent state. This helps the person learn self-regulation, allowing them to achieve better mood stabilization. After beginning neurofeedback, clients frequently comment that they can once again “trust their brain.” What does this mean? Bipolar clients undergoing neurofeedback training often report less susceptibility to mood swings, increased ability to focus, and reduced anger. Their ability to function may increase as they find themselves less reactive and increasingly able to respond and act appropriately.

Research supports the effectiveness of neurofeedback for anxiety and bipolar disorder.

Ed Hamlin, a neuropsychologist at the Pisgah Institute in North Carolina, reported an ongoing study of the use of neurofeedback in patients diagnosed with bipolar. Of the more than 40 patients studied, many had a history of being frequently hospitalized for bipolar disorder. Following neurofeedback training, patients were able to reduce medications and enjoy stability, which included increased daily functioning, improved relationships, better performance at work and school, and a dramatic reduction in hospitalizations. Some patients who had been medicated for 20 years and told that they would be on medications for their entire lives were able to safely become medication-free.

Neurofeedback intends to build stability by helping the brain learn and maintain healthier patterns.

As stability becomes the dominant pattern in the brain, most clients can begin to reduce neurofeedback training as well as medications (with their doctor’s supervision).

Bipolar clients can be very sensitive, and it’s not uncommon that, with just a few minutes of neurofeedback, these sensitive patients notice a shift in mood and become more calm. This can occur even when patients are on large dosages of medication. As brain functioning improves during the course of neurofeedback sessions, a neurofeedback practitioner can constantly fine-tune the training to help maintain and build on these gains, even within a single session.

To begin neurofeedback treatment, sensors are placed on the person’s head. A unique computer system measures brain patterns and rewards the brain for making healthier, more stable patterns. With sufficient practice and training, the brain learns to make these healthier patterns independently. Neurofeedback is like exercise for the brain. A number of training sessions are necessary, and the number of sessions required differs from person to person depending on the complexity and severity of the disorder. Once the individual’s brain is strong enough, training can be stopped or reduced to occasional maintenance training.

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