Most people experience feelings of anxiety before an important event such as a big exam, business presentation or first date. Anxiety disorders, however, are illnesses that cause people to feel frightened, distressed and uneasy for no apparent reason. Left untreated, these disorders can dramatically reduce productivity and significantly diminish an individual’s quality of life.
How Common Are Anxiety Disorders?
Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in America; more than 19 million are affected by these debilitating illnesses each year.
Anxiety disorders cost the U.S. $46.6 billion in 1990 in direct and indirect costs, nearly one-third of the nation’s total mental health bill of $148 billion.
What Are the Different Kinds of Anxiety Disorders?
Panic Disorder – Characterized by panic attacks, sudden feelings of terror that strike repeatedly and without warning. Physical symptoms include chest pain, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, dizziness, abdominal discomfort, feelings of unreality, and fear of dying.
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder – Repeated, intrusive and unwanted thoughts or rituals that seem impossible to control.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder – Persistent symptoms that occur after experiencing a traumatic event such as war, rape, child abuse, natural disasters, or being taken hostage. Nightmares, flashbacks, numbing of emotions, depression, and feeling angry, irritable, distracted and being easily startled are common.
Social Phobia – Extreme, disabling and irrational fear of something that really poses little or no actual danger; the fear leads to avoidance of objects or situations and can cause people to limit their lives.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder – Chronic, exaggerated worry about everyday routine life events and activities, lasting at least six months; almost always anticipating the worst even though there is little reason to expect it. Accompanied by physical symptoms, such as fatigue, trembling, muscle tension, headache, or nausea.
What Are the Treatments for Anxiety Disorders?
Treatments have been largely developed through research conducted by NIMH and other research institutions. They are extremely effective and often combine medication or specific types of psychotherapy. More medications are available than ever before to effectively treat anxiety disorders. These include antidepressants or benzodiazepines. If one medication is not effective, others can be tried. New medications are currently under development to treat anxiety symptoms.
The two most effective forms of psychotherapy used to treat anxiety disorders are behavioral therapy and cognitive-behavioral therapy. Behavioral therapy tries to change actions through techniques such as diaphragmatic breathing or through gradual exposure to what is frightening. In addition to these techniques, cognitive-behavioral therapy teaches patients to understand their thinking patterns so they can react differently to the situations that cause them anxiety.
Is it Possible for Anxiety Disorders to Coexist with Other Physical or Mental Disorders?
It is common for an anxiety disorder to accompany another anxiety disorder, or in some cases depression, eating disorders or substance abuse. Anxiety disorders can also coexist with physical disorders. In such instances, these disorders will also need to be treated. Before undergoing any treatment, it is important to have a thorough medical exam to rule out other possible causes.
The content of this fact sheet was adapted from material published by the National Institute of Mental Health.
Peer-Reviewed Published Papers
Neurofeedback with anxiety and affective disorders by D. Corydon Hammond, PhD, ABEN/ECNS
A review of EEG biofeedback treatment of anxiety disorders by Moore NC
Increase in alpha-rhythm in anxious subjects using biofeedback: A preliminary study by Burti, L., & Siciliani, O. (1983).
Effects of alpha feedback training on occipital EEG, heart rate, and experiential reactivity to a laboratory stressor by Chisholm, R. C., DeGood, D. E., & Hartz, M. A. (1977).
Fpo2 and the regulation of fear by Fisher, S. (2007).
The use of EMG and alpha biofeedback to relieve test anxiety in college students by Garrett, B. L., & Silver, M. P. (1976).
Neurofeedback with anxiety and afective disorders by Hammond, D. C. (2005).
Anxiety change through electroencephalographic alpha feedback seen only in high anxiety subjects by Hardt, J. V., & Kamiya, J. (1978).
Effects of instructions and biofeedback in EEG-alpha production and the effects of EEG alpha biofeedback training for controlled arousal in a subsequent stressful situation by Holmes, D. S., Burish, T. G., & Frost, R. O. (1980).
QEEG-guided neurofeedback for children with histories of abuse and neglect: Neurodevelopmental rationale and pilot study by Huang-Storms, L., Bodenhamer-Davis, E., Davis, R., & Dunn, J. (2006).
Neurofeedback therapy of attention deficits in patients with traumatic brain injury by Keller, I. (2001).
Alpha suppression and symmetry training for generalized anxiety symptoms by Kerson, C., Sherman, R.A., Kozlowski, G.P. (2009).
Correlations of alpha percentage in EEG, alpha feedback, anxiety scores from MAS and MMQ by Kirschbaum, J., & Gisti, E. (1973).
Attention and neurofeedback synchrony training: Clinical results and their significance by McKnight, J. T., & Fehmi, L. G. (2001).
A review of EEG biofeedback treatment of anxiety disorders by Moore, N. C. (2000).
The effects of performance enhancement training on hypertension, human attention, stress, and brain wave patterns: A case study Norris, S. L., Lee, C-T., Burshteyn, D., & Cea-Aravena, J. (2001).
Biofeedback as a placebo: Anxiety reduction facilitated by training in either suppression or enhancement of alpha brainwaves by Plotkin, W. B., & Rice, K. M. (1981).
Biofeedback treatments of generalized anxiety disorder: Preliminary results by Rice, K. M., Blanchard, E. B., & Purcell, M. (1993).
Treatment of anxiety disorder with slow-wave suppression EEG feedback: A case study by Sattlberger, E., & Thomas, J. E. (2000).
Treatment of chronic anxiety disorder with neurotherapy: A case study by Thomas, J. E., & Sattlberger, B. A. (1997).
A program of stress management in a college setting by Valdez, M. (1988).
The efficacy of alpha and theta neurofeedback training in treatment of generalized anxiety disorder by Vanathy, S., Sharma, P. S. V. N., & Kumar, K. B. (1998).
Panic Attacks, Stress, and Anxiety by The Biocybernaut Institute
Treatment of Chronic Anxiety Disorder with Neurotherapy: A Case Study by Thomas JE Ph.D. and Sattlberger E B.A.
The Peniston-Kulkosky Brainwave Neurofeedback Therapeutic Protocol: The Future Psychotherapy for Alcoholism/PTSD/Behavioral Medicine by Eugene O. Peniston, Ed.D., A.B.M.P.P., B.C.E.T.S., F.A.A.E.T.S.