How brainspotting helps heal anxiety.
What is Brainspotting?
Brainspotting is an advanced therapy for overcoming negative emotions, healing traumatic experiences and rebalancing the nervous system. The process involves identifying, processing and releasing stored trauma and emotional stress with the help of a certified Brainspotting therapist. It is one of the few techniques that effectively addresses the root cause of psychological stress and emotional trauma. This is a primary reason why Brainspotting is so effective at treating PTSD, depression, anxiety, addictions and many other stress-related and mental health challenges. If you feel like you have plateaued in your healing or are not finding relief in other approaches, Brainspotting offers new possibilities for breakthrough.
What is Anxiety?
Are you anxious or just stressed out?
We all know what it feels like to be stressed out, worried, overwhelmed and as though we may buckle under the pressures of life. At these times the nervous system can get activated and our heart may race, palms sweat or stomach feels queasy. Just think of a time when you had to speak in public or felt put on the spot in front of a group of people and didn’t know what to say. Anxiety often triggers our body’s natural fight, flight, freeze, collapse or appease mechanisms. These responses from our nervous system are designed to protect us from a perceived threat or danger. However most modern-day anxiety is based on our perception of situations and not true physical threats. Persistent worry and stress can cause a constant state of nervous system overdrive and become very uncomfortable to experience.
Although feeling anxious is normal in new, uncertain or risky situations, it can be challenging to know if there is a problem with anxiety or if you are experiencing normal levels of stress and nervousness. As a general guideline, you are likely having a problem if anxiety becomes so frequent and intense that it takes over your life and you can’t control the worry, self-doubt, stress and overwhelm. Anxiety in this case, becomes generalized and as a result, feelings of worry and stress can be felt in multiple areas. It can also have a very intense physical component impacting sleep, energy levels and feeling tense or on edge all of the time. Many people feel like they don’t want to be in their body because they are so uncomfortable. These are all signs that the sympathetic nervous system is activated and it is releasing stress hormones. This is often part of the fight, flight or freeze response where we are on heightened alert to guard against the perceived threat.
By nature, anxiety is related to a fear of what might happen, once the snowball of the nervous system starts it can sometimes be rather challenging to stop. In other words, anxiety begets more anxiety and a vicious cycle ensues. Understanding how to prevent this from happening and also stop it once it’s started requires working directly with the nervous system.
Are you Anxious or Depressed?
Clients come to us confused as to whether they are anxious or depressed. The answer is quite often, both. Persistent worry and fear of the future that is typical with anxiety often brings up regrets from the past that is typical with depression. It is common for people who experience anxiety to also experience depression and vice versa. In fact, 50% of people who experience depression also report experiencing anxiety.
Anxiety has been considered the common cold of mental health with more than 40 million adults in the United states experiencing anxiety every year. That equals over 18% of the population and makes anxiety the #1 mental health diagnosis. Although anxiety is considered a mental illness or disorder, we find it more useful to think of it as an imbalance in the mind and body. While only 36% of people seek treatment, there are many effective treatments for anxiety. If you or someone you know is experiencing several of the following signs, consider reaching out for help.
Common Symptoms of Anxiety
Emotion / Mood
Fear, terror, dread, uneasy, edgy, irritability, hypervigilance, overwhelm, fear of death, generalized anxiety, panic, excessive worry, rumination and obsessing
Racing thoughts, catastrophic thinking, fear of death or thoughts about death, obsessing about losing control, hypochondriac self-doubt and difficulty concentrating, focusing, making decisions or remembering
Gastrointestinal issues, low energy or wired with high energy, muscle tension, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, shallow breathing, nausea, headaches, palms sweaty, heart racing, stomach ache and dizziness
Appetite changes – losing weight, gaining weight or craving foods
Avoiding social interactions and risky and self-destructive behaviors such as excessive drinking, using drugs, gambling, driving fast and promiscuity
Sleep disturbance – too much sleep or too little sleep and nightmares
Equally Challenging, Less Known Symptoms of Anxiety
Emotion / Mood
Developing phobias and fears such as driving, heights, small spaces and feeling detached from one’s body or sense of self
Disassociation and pessimism
Staying at home to limit social interactions or fearful of going outside, over attachment to a safe person, place or thing that feels safe, impulsivity, nail biting, self-harm, talk fast and loudly, can’t speak and picking at one’s body or skin
Constipation or diarrhea, frequent urination, trembling, shaking, stomach cramps, pins and needles, chills, hot flashes, numb, buzzing, sensory sensitivity such as lights, noises, scents, bright colors, crowds, teeth /jaw grinding, fainting, changes in body temperature and choking feeling
What Does Anxiety Look Like?
Types of Anxiety
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
A pattern of anxiety where excessive worry is experienced in many aspects of a person’s life such as finances, health, relationships, driving, work and other issues. The anxiety reaction to these issues is disproportionate, catastrophic or generally unwarranted to actual situations. Worry is experienced more days than not for a period of 6 months and the individual has three or more additional clinically significant symptoms such as restlessness, irritability or sleep disturbance.
Panic Disorder is characterized by recurring panic attacks. A panic attack is a sudden feeling of extreme fear and discomfort that reach its peak within several minutes. Four additional criteria must be met such as trembling, heart palpitations, shaking, feelings of choking, fear of death, nausea, dizziness or chest pain. As well, one of the panic attacks must be followed by a month of extreme worry about having another panic attack.
Social Anxiety Disorder
A pattern of anxiety related to social situations and the fear of being judged, ridiculed, rejected, or negatively evaluated in some way by others. Extreme anxiety about upcoming social events and avoidance of social situations are common. This may include job interviews, parties, dinners, holidays, going shopping or other important events.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
A pattern of anxiety where unwanted and intrusive thoughts are obsessed over and relief is found temporarily in compulsively carrying out a specific act. The compulsive act is intended to relieve the pressure and anxiety caused by the distressing obsessive thoughts.
What Causes Anxiety?
Anxiety disorders may result from traumatic or highly stressful life events, hormonal imbalances, chronic insomnia, genetics, gut-brain imbalances, personality traits, physical health challenge, loss and sudden change and more.
Traditional approaches for anxiety generally include medication and talk therapy. Although these are often viewed as the primary forms of treatment, they don’t work for everyone. Many of our clients find they experience short term or limited results with these approaches. Our evolving understanding of the mind body connection and neuroscience have led to a range of highly effective methods for treating anxiety.
Mind body Approaches
Mind body approaches are fundamental to treating anxiety. Given anxiety has a primary physical component, brain informed, or body-based therapies have been shown to be essential in reducing symptoms of anxiety. In many cases these treatments far surpass traditional approaches. Meditation, mindfulness, diaphragmatic breathing practices and other relaxation techniques are often considered the hub of most mind body approaches. Brainspotting, EMDR, somatic therapy, parts therapy, hypnosis, visualization, energy psychology and biofeedback are several science-based strategies for decreasing anxiety.
There is a wealth of integrative medical approaches that many people find to be great alternatives or additions to medications. This may include acupuncture, herbs, CBD, essential oils, pet therapy, music therapy, homeopathy, amino acid and nutritional supplementation and a host of other natural methods to healing and rebalancing mind and body.
Regular exercise, yoga, regular exercise, adequate sleep, spending time in nature, social support and healthy nutrition habits have been well researched as vital components of a healthy lifestyle that decrease anxiety.
Brainspotting and Anxiety
Many people who experience chronic anxiety or have ever had a panic attack, have either had trauma in their history or feel trauma from having anxiety. We have found Brainspotting, somatic therapy and other methods that directly address the underlying trauma are a vital component of healing anxiety.