Anxiety is a feeling of nervousness, fear, or worry, which can be a normal reaction to stress. For example, a moderate degree of anxiety can help one study hard for an exam, deal effectively with a difficult situation at work or at home, or stay focused on an important presentation. Sometimes however, symptoms of anxiety can become so intense that they are overwhelming and paralyzing. When this kind of problematic anxiety persists over a period of time, it can be described as an “anxiety disorder”. Both short term and long term anxiety can lead to physical symptoms including high blood pressure, gastrointestinal distress, and difficulty sleeping. Anxiety disorders can encompass obsessive or compulsive thoughts and/or behaviors, panic attacks, or general “free floating” anxiety.
The cause of anxiety and anxiety disorders is not fully known, however, brain chemistry, genetic predisposition, and environmental stressors can all play a role in the development of anxiety. For example, anxiety may be associated with abnormal levels of certain neurotransmitters (chemicals which transmit information from one brain cell to another in the brain). Research has also demonstrated that problems with anxiety tend to run in families and may be passed on from one generation to another. Finally, traumatic or stressful events such as abuse, the death of a loved one, divorce, or a change in job or school can all trigger anxiety.
Neurofeedback can help a person regulate their own nervous system so they can have an appropriate anxiety response when it is necessary and keep them calm when it is not.