Anxiety & Depression

Anxiety Disorders

come in many varieties. In EEG analyses, we very often find that high-frequency brainwaves are involved (We have no knowledge of whether they are causal or consequent or co-contributive, but they are certainly there.) The person is overstimulated and “over-revved” in some respect. There is often sleep disturbance, fearfulness, may be hypervigilance, phobia, panic, or obsessive-compulsive problems. These are discussed in headings below as categories with slightly different neurological topographies.

Panic Disorder:

by definition is extreme in its effect. People think they are dying, having heart attacks or strokes. Even though emergency rooms often refer people whose crisis is precipitated by anxiety or panic to a psychiatrist, the latter will usually use tranquillizers over psychotherapy, or talking the person down from the problem, because of the intensity and the extent of the genuine neuro-physiological logical manifestations: A pounding heartbeat or pulse, hyperventilation, breaking into a sweat, “butterflies” or nausea, shaking, and other symptoms.

After years of doing conventional psychotherapy for Panic Disorders, Dr. Larsen noted that physiological quieting measures, practiced regularly before any crisis emerges, work very well. These include deep EMG-monitored muscle relaxation, hand-warming techniques, and regulated breathing. What astonished him though, was that the LENS technique, seemingly without volitional control, produced a kind of preventive self-regulation, which seem to head panic attacks off at the pass.

Together, however, the LENS with techniques such as HRV or Heart Rate Variability training are far more powerful for self-regulation than either training alone. People feel more intuitively poised or in balance, and if unexpected or arousing situations arise, they feel they have self-management techniques to help them react appropriately rather than overreacting.

Obsessive-compulsive Disorders:

Are recognized by psychiatrists and psychologists as one of the most difficult symptom complexes to address. In general obsessions refer to thought disorders characterized by repetitive counting or other cognitive thought loops. Compulsions, which may often accompany obsessions, involve active behavioral enactments such as “checking,” handwashing, or behavioral ritualizations of some kind. (See Dropdown menu on Obsessive Compulsive Disorders.


Involve an intense reaction to a specific setting or experience: elevators, airplanes, or even in the case of agoraphobia, going out in public at all. While Psychoanalysts have probed for the symbolic roots of phobias, Behavior therapists, with probably more success, have explored the Pavlovian classical conditioning roots of such experiences and used Behavior Modification procedures like systematic desensitization, repeated exposure to an experience while staying calm, etc. Traditional biofeedback used EMG and hand temperature training to lend empirical validation that the person was actually staying relaxed in the presence of the fearful stimulation. In EEG neurofeedback clinicians have coached people to produce more alpha, generally associated with a neutral state.

Over the past twelve years we have used primarily the LENS with neurofeedback patients. As mentioned in other places, we seldom treat symptoms in isolation. We are working on five or more at a time (which reflect different domains if you will, of CNS functioning, including the autonomic system, the limbic system, even cardiovascular or digestive problems, or sleep. Among other sysmptoms we have seen improvement in children with fear of the dark, aloneness, adults with bridge and elevator phobias, fear of flying, even sitting in classrooms (and if so, have to be next to the door), car phobias (a tough one, since that’s the main way to get to our New Paltz center. Fear a variety of phobias, some quite physiologically arousing and frighteningexperimenters have often give experimental proof Were one of the first areas in which Behavior Modification

Obsessive-compulsive disorders are usually resistant to psychotherapy, and insight-oriented techniques. Behavior modification has shown mild success, and many failures. Pharmaceutical regimens involving SSRI’s and drugs such as Anafranil have better results, showing that the problem is neurological.

Physiological analysis, and Dr. Dan Amen’s SPECT scans have shown that cingulate gyrus activation goes along with OCD symptoms. In an EEG topographic map we can sometimes see a “hot-spot” right over the cingulate gyrus. With the all-over-brain training of the LENS patterns of stubborn coherence are often broken up, accompanied by an amelioration of symptoms. It would be over-reaching to claim any ability to cure OCD symptoms. However, they have been shown, according to patient’s reports, to be milder, and easier to resist or ignore–in short, less compulsive.

Mood Disorders:

Also called Affective disorders, generally involving emotional fluctuations, varying from clinical depression to dysthymia ( a low grade chronic depression) to the wild elation of mania, or hypomania. The general consensus of the psychiatric community is that these disorders have a strong genetic or familial component. The usual treatment is anti-depressant medications, such as SSRI’s and/or stimulants, such as Ritalin or Concerta.

EEG-based neurofeedback usually (but not always) finds extremely slow brainwave activity in combination with depression: Delta and Theta waves. The usual remedy is to train higher frequencies, such as SMR or Beta. However the LENS, with its intrinsic self-rectifying capacity, seems to help the brain find its own balance.

In a number of cases, over time clinical depression seemed to soften and ameliorate. People seemed more aware of its onset, what might have triggered it, and to be able to distinguish their own brain in depressed versus normal condition. The depth of depression lifted. In some cases, mood just achieved its (mostly positive) own equilibrium.

Dysthymia, along with anhedonia (the inability to find pleasure in ordinary things or everyday life) seems like a low-grade pervasive depression. But it is insidious because its effects seem to affect functioning on so many levels. Ordinary activities, whether work or pleasure, relationships, creative projects lose their lustre and come to seem “stale, flat and unprofitable.” Food loses its taste or attraction for some people.

We have accumulated results both with dysthymia and anhedonia that seem encouraging. If people have a little more energy, and it is balanced, they may explore more behavioral options, and these in turn have their rewards. Gradually people are restored to a lifestyle in which they are able to derive more satisfaction from daily life and small pleasures. (See also Optimal performance and Quality of Life Studies.)