Anxiety affects 40 million adults in the United States every year. Yet, according to the Anxiety & Depression Association of America, only 40% of those people seek treatment for their mental health condition. On top of this, anxiety disorders affect a quarter of our children between the ages of 13-18. So, it begs us to ask the question: What’s causing all of this anxiety?
To understand anxiety, we must understand how the brain works. Here at Grey Matters of Carmel, we like to educate our patients on what’s happening inside their heads. Your entire brain sends and shares information with itself and the rest of your body through trillions of electrical and chemical signals every single day. However, life’s stressors and traumas can cause these systems to go out of whack, resulting in what many doctors refer to as a chemical imbalance. These chemical imbalances can lead to mental health disorders like anxiety, depression, and even PTSD. Still, your brain is powerful, and it can learn to rebalance itself; it just needs the proper guidance.
What a Chemical Imbalance Means
Your brain is full of neurons that are constantly communicating with one another. Each has a function, and they send information to and from via neurotransmitters, or natural chemicals, that help ease the transfer of information. Some examples of these neurotransmitters include norepinephrine, serotonin, oxytocin, and opioid peptides. Sometimes, the neurotransmitter receptor on one neuron refuses the chemical, or the reuptake inhibitor of the giving neuron fails to take back what was rejected. This type of misfire or failure to transmit is what researchers and doctors associate with all the mental health disorders we talk about. The miscommunication is what they think leads to a chemical imbalance: either your brain continues to produce too much of a specific type of chemical or not enough.
This insufficient level of neurotransmitters is what lead researchers in the 1950s to hypothesize that their imbalance could lead to:
- Insomnia or sleeping too much
- Lack of energy
- Feelings of sadness, hopelessness, worthlessness, or emptiness
- Alcohol or drug misuse
- Difficulty concentrating
And so much more!
How Chemicals Become Imbalanced
Here’s where things get a little tricky. While doctors and scientists all agree that neurotransmitters are critical in transferring information in the brain, they cannot definitively state how these chemicals become imbalanced. There are millions of reactions happening in your brain every day, and according to the Harvard Medical School, this fact alone makes it impossible to determine if someone is experiencing a chemical imbalance.
Still, doctors continue to prescribe anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medications because it’s the most common evidence they have that supports the theory that the brain is experiencing a chemical imbalance. Most of these medications increase the serotonin levels in the brain, which is the chemical responsible for elevating your mood and making you happy. So, of course, people feel better when they take these medications and then slip back into their anxious states when they come off their meds.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, occasional anxiety in our lives is expected, whether it proceeds a big test, a work problem, or an important life decision. But the disorders themselves involve more than just temporary worry or fear. These feelings don’t go away for people with anxiety disorders and can actually get worse over time. Many of these same experts believe that both your environmental and genetic factors play a crucial role in how your brain responds to fear.
For those living with generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, or the various phobia-related anxiety disorders, their worries and fears can interfere with their everyday lives. These fears not only make work, school, and social lives difficult, but they can also prevent people from receiving treatment because of the stigma surrounding mental health disorders. If this sounds like you, then we’re here to tell you, it can and does get better with neurofeedback training.
Let’s Retrain Your Brain
The brain works off the reward system. This means that when you take anti-depressants or anti-anxiety medication, you’re flooding your brain with a chemical that makes it feel good. However, this isn’t curing your anxiety disorder; it’s simply masking it by trying to trick your brain. Here at Grey Matters of Carmel, we pride ourselves in helping people live their lives free of these medications by training their brains to operate at an optimal, healthy level. By training the brain waves and rewarding your brain with sound, we can help mitigate those worries and fears, even getting rid of that anxiety knot that sits in your stomach. If you’re ready to find balance and experience a better head space, then give us a call today at (317) 215-7208.