Anxiety is a pervasive and chronic problem for millions of people. It affects all ages, ethnic groups, socioeconomic brackets, and both men and women.
Anxiety can range from being extremely disabling (where a person cannot leave the house or be around other people) to being a persistent nuisance that detracts from quality of life and limits the range of activities that a person can enjoy. Many people suffer from simple phobias (i.e., fears associated with certain stimuli, such as heights, driving, flying, public speaking, meetings or presentations, tests, doctor visits, diseases or germs, closed or tight spaces, bugs, etc.). Others have periodic panic attacks, leaving them afflicted with alarm, confusion, physical symptoms (such as heart palpitations and shortness of breath), and the terrible burden of wondering when the next panic attack will strike.
Many people (including quite a few of my patients before undergoing my care) have been taken to hospital emergency rooms, fearing they were having heart attacks, only to discover that they had a panic attack. Such experiences are traumatic, leaving patients embarrassed, confused, and told that they must take (habit-forming) medicines indefinitely.
Anxiety is a terrible emotion to experience, and it is worsened when it seems there is no apparent cause for it. The anxious person not only feels bad due to the anxiety, but he also feels embarrassed about feeling bad, because he often cannot identify any source for this emotion. If an anxious person can take something or do something that blocks awareness of the anxiety, he feels tremendous relief—temporarily.
There are actually many triggers and a number of bases for anxiety. It is easiest to understand anxiety as a basic nervous system response that helps survival under certain conditions. The adrenal response that elicits fight-or-flight mode is a biological instinct that prepares us to deal with threat or danger. However, this arousal response gets out of hand when the nervous system perceives threat or danger repeatedly in situations where they do not exist. An anxiety disorder is a condition in which this misappropriated response happens continually, relegating its victims to a lifestyle decimated by tension, nervousness, fear, panic, physical symptoms, sleeplessness, impaired social relations, poor concentration, and diminished performance—often without conscious awareness of what is making them feel so distressed.
The acceleration and seeming “mutation” arousal of the nervous system that constitutes persistent anxiety results in a nervous system habit caused by various traumas (including experiences, perceptions, illnesses, foods), genetic predisposition, and “perturbations”—disturbances in the coding processes of the nervous system—triggered to the point where the person cannot calm the chain reaction phenomenon down. Persistent anxiety is a condition in which the normal self-soothing mechanisms have essentially become ineffective.
In addition to the obvious subjective discomfort anxiety causes, it is also a stealth cause of other pernicious conditions and habits. All addictions have anxiety as a common denominator. It underpins the vicious cycle of craving, indulgence, temporary soothing and relief, and inevitable withdrawal that characterize additive patterns and cycles.
Anxiety also is the root of many types of avoidance, such as fears, phobias, and procrastination. It is also the quintessential feature of obsessions and compulsions. Constant negative thinking or forecasting, nervous habits (such as nail biting, hair pulling, and body picking) are hallmarks of an underlying anxiety condition. More severe manifestations of uncontrolled anxiety are eating disorders and self-injurious behaviors, such as cutting.
Among the available treatment options for anxiety, the predominant method remains pharmaceutical: prescriptions to calm (and dull) the brain and nervous system, so that the fight-or-flight response is chemically blunted and restricted.
Unfortunately, this medically advocated method—drugs—is only a temporary palliative and has many untoward side effects, including addiction! These medications are not only habit-forming, but they make you foggy and sluggish, and often lead to cognitive impairment and memory loss. Their rebound effects include agitation, irritability, sleeplessness, and cravings—high prices to pay for temporary relief.
The prevailing “scientific” explanation for anxiety (and depression and many other conditions) is that chemical imbalances in the brain are responsible, thereby “requiring” a daily infusion of chemicals that help the brain bind certain receptors and facilitate uptake of other neurotransmitters in the synapses. Such explanations are technical-sounding misnomers—straw men of sorts that miss the point, which is: our entire nervous system and biochemistry runs on chemical imbalances! Fatigue, hunger, joy, irritation, sexual desire, ambition, and other states are all “imbalances” managed by a brain that must be flexible. When these imbalances are insufficiently managed or are over-corrected or under-corrected, symptoms such as anxiety escalate above thresholds of “binding.” When this happens, anxiety symptoms abound, inducing a state of perceived emergency and causing reactions of panic and misery. (See Steinberg & Othmer, ADD: The 20-Hour Solution, 2004, chapter 8, for a fuller explanation)
Trying to solve the anxiety problem by dousing the nervous system with toxic chemicals is a marginal solution, at best.
Other treatment approaches include cognitive behavior modification and various forms of psychotherapy (usually “talk” therapy). In cognitive behavior modification, the patient is taught to “reframe” anxious thoughts and feelings by using logic and reassurance to prove that there is no actual threat or reason to be anxious. Despite its current popularity, cognitive behavior modification is largely ineffective in maintaining anxiety reduction, and this is so for good reason: feelings do not have reason! They exist in a domain independent of reason. Although feelings and reason can be integrated (and usually are in healthy functional individuals), you can no more tell the nervous system not to be anxious by logic than you can will a stomach-ache to disappear, or to reason yourself into love with a particular person.
Another conventional (and extreme) form of therapy for anxiety-reduction is systematic desensitization. In this “treatment,” the anxious or fearful person is encouraged to gradually expose himself to the feared stimulus in order to desensitize the anxiety. Patients are assisted by cognitive behavior modification scripts and sometimes by the presence of a therapist. It is, in my opinion, an elaborate and barbaric method of toughing it out. It often leaves patients more anxious and less confident. Proving that you can withstand pain does little to resolve so-called “chemical imbalances” or to keep anxiety from returning.
I speak from experience. I practiced these methods for years before I discovered more humane and effective treatment methods.
For decades, I have employed a combination of Voice Technology Thought Field Therapy and EEG neurofeedback to defeat anxiety. The success rate is astoundingly high (about 95% overall), and these treatments are safe and natural.
Thought Field Therapy (TFT) is a powerful treatment for dealing with psychological disturbances. TFT provides a code that, when applied to a psychological problem the individual is experiencing, eliminates perturbations in the thought field that are the fundamental cause of all negative emotions. (A perturbation is a disturbance in the encoding of information that connects a thought with a feeling. TFT acts upon these perturbations to collapse them and render them inactive.) Voice Technology is a very advanced form of Thought Field Therapy that uses the human voice to determine the codes that keep anxiety and other negative emotions in place.
I test the person’s voice and, using the revealed information, prescribe tapping sequences that the person self-administers on his own body. In a matter of minutes, the anxiety and other negative feelings disappear! This procedure works 97% of the time and can be done over the phone.
In cases involving phobias or trauma-based anxiety, one or two treatments are often sufficient to eliminate the anxiety and keep it at bay. Some people need more treatment, and a significant percentage of these people are sensitive to individual energy toxins—foods, supplements, toiletries, materials—that they encounter regularly without knowing that these contribute to and trigger anxiety. By voice-testing for toxins, patients are empowered to identify and avoid substances that can trigger anxiety.
There are also self-help versions of Thought Field Therapy that enable many people to effectively treat their own anxiety (See Steinberg, Living Intact: Challenge and Choice in Tough Times, 2011, for a fuller description and step-by-step self-help guide).
EEG neurofeedback is a highly effective method of gradually reducing anxiety and training the brain and nervous system to remain calm, even in the face of provocation. Using this method, patients train their brainwaves using computers. This process takes advantage of the brain’s natural neuroplasticity by providing feedback that allows the person to alter the brain’s flexibility for integrating the timing mechanisms underlying states of arousal, self-regulation, and the sensations and control of emotions and physiological states.
Neurofeedback is essentially a brain exercise that has pervasive and lasting effects. It enables the brain to find, develop, and restore its own “comfort” levels for maintaining calmness and equanimity. Neurofeedback is effectively used for many conditions. Because it directly influences nervous system control, it almost always enables the reduction of anxiety and exerts a calming influence on the nervous system. After a training regimen, the brain continues to exercise the control it has learned. Anxiety is rendered benignly to non-interference because the brain learns to maintain self-regulation.
I use a combination of these treatment methods to achieve both rapid and lasting effects in the elimination of anxiety. These treatments are natural, effective, and enduring because they address the root causes of anxiety.
Nature provides us with a sensitive nervous system for detecting threat and danger. This involves our built-in flight-or-flight response that gears up for action to protect our survival. However (as mentioned previously), the flight-or-flight arousal response can occur habitually when the nervous system perceives threat or danger repeatedly in situations where they do not exist. Thus, the brain and physiology link up to maintain a high-alert state to defend against perceived threat, and persistent anxiety is the result. This can also happen in response to an individual energy toxin—a substance ingested, inhaled, or absorbed into the body—to which a particular individual is sensitive—that then propels the nervous system into an overly aroused state, along with the attendant anxiety. When the body and mind habituate to repeated arousal and anxiety, it depletes health and causes misery. As noted earlier, the anxious person not only suffers from the anxiety, but may also be sheepish about feeling bad, because the alarming reaction cannot be traced to any “legitimate” source.
Ironically, the anxious person may be erroneously faulted or even self-accused of being his own worst enemy. I quote from my book, ADD: The 20-Hour Solution:
A poignant proverb highlights the tragic consequences of negative focus, assumed to be self-imposed, but often the result of disregulation:
“Vos der mensch ken alts ibertrachten, ken der ergster soyna im nisht vinchen.” (What people can think up for themselves, their own worst enemies couldn’t wish upon them.)
It is a mistake to criticize someone for having chronic anxiety or to interpret this affliction as a wish to be sick or to avoid. If only our modern thinking could move past the simplistic and archaic notions of moralistic blame, early conditioning, and “receptor imbalances” to “explain” anxiety and instead adopt and implement proven and safe methods for reducing and eliminating this common affliction!
Assess your own anxiety level and coping mechanisms by taking the Anxiety Test on-line. This brief self-administered rating scale will help you determine the degree to which you struggle with anxiety, composure, and nervous system overarousal.
— Mark Steinberg, Ph.D.
Call: (408) 356-1002
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by Mark Steinberg, Ph.D. and Siegfried Othmer, Ph.D.,
"ADD: The 20-Hour Solution" explains how EEG neurofeedback addresses the underlying problem and characteristics of ADD and ADHD, so that symptoms resolve and tangible improvement results. This book describes the method by which we can improve the brain's ability to pay attention and regulate its behavior.