While most adults are too familiar with the feelings of anxiety and depression, many parents fail to see the signs of anxiety and depression in their kids. The prevalence of depression and anxiety has notably surged in the younger generation.
Such a trend was observed even before the pandemic, as demonstrated by a study that reported a 27% increase in anxiety and a 24% increase in depression between 2016 and 2019 (Lebrun-Harris et al., 2022).
Even though medication and talk therapy usage are up, mental health issues are skyrocketing. Parents and kids need solutions and there are natural solutions that can help reduce symptoms.
Anxiety vs. Depression
It is possible that a child may have an anxiety disorder if they exhibit excessive fear and worry for a lengthy period of time and disrupts their daily routines, such as school, home, or play activities.
Depression in children is even more concerning. Parents need to recognize changes in their child's behavior, such as prolonged sadness or disinterest in activities they once enjoyed, more so if they experience a sense of helplessness or hopelessness in situations they cannot control.
Behaviors such as persistent sadness and hopelessness may indicate depression and require a diagnosis. In severe cases, depression can lead to suicidal thoughts or planning. Suicide among youth aged 10-24 is one of the top causes of death within this age group (Curtin & Heron, 2019). No one ever wants to think their child could be suicidal but there are many risk factors including a recent breakup, bullying or the suicide of someone close to them.
While anxiety and depression are often combined, they are two distinct disorders with different clinical criteria and symptoms. However, they commonly occur together and have similar treatment options. For example, a person who is depressed is lethargic and has low energy. On the other hand, those with anxiety are often high-energy and agitated. Knowing the symptoms of each disorder will help you understand these conditions.
Symptoms of Anxiety
Individuals who have experienced the following symptoms on most days for more than six months, and find that these symptoms significantly impact their daily life, may be diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder.
- Agitation and restlessness
- Excessive worrying
- Trouble concentrating
- Muscle tension
- Sleep disturbance
- Easily fatigued
Symptoms of Depression
The American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), states that a person must experience at least five of these depressive symptoms for a minimum of two weeks to receive a diagnosis of major depressive disorder.
- Lack of energy
- Slow movement
- No interest in certain activities
- Decrease or increase in appetite
- Hypersomnia or insomnia
- Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
- Problems concentrating
- Suicidal behaviors or thoughts
Even though anxiety medication can temporarily relieve anxiety and depression symptoms, they generally fail to tackle the underlying cause. They also have a toxic effect 100 percent of the time. Moreover, they tend to reinforce avoidant behaviors instead of teaching individuals how to effectively manage stress and uncomfortable feelings.
On the other hand, neurofeedback is more beneficial in the long run. It works to calm and regulate the brain. It is important to commit time to work with a psychotherapist to challenge negative thought patterns and behaviors that lead to enhanced quality of life, improved productivity, and long-term feelings of well-being.
Neurofeedback for Anxiety and Depression
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Neurofeedback is a form of biofeedback that has existed for more than five decades. It is a learning technique that enables individuals to modify their brain waves by providing information on their brain wave patterns through the use of computers. It can be compared to brain exercise, allowing individuals to learn how to control and change their brain waves.
The primary goal of a neurofeedback therapy session is to teach the brain how to regulate itself. And the brain can do that when given the right reinforcement.
Dysregulation of the central nervous system can manifest in symptoms and behaviors like depression and anxiety. By undergoing brain training through neurofeedback, one can learn how to self-regulate, which can help alleviate anxiety and other symptoms.
Neurofeedback works on a deep, unconscious level, influencing most brain processes. By measuring brainwave activity and providing reinforcement, individuals can learn to regulate their brainwaves in a safe and effective way.
This process involves being rewarded for subconscious changes in brainwave activity using computers. As a result, the nervous system can calm down through this self-regulation, reducing or eliminating symptoms.
Regardless of the level of function or dysfunction, almost any brain can be trained to function better with neurofeedback. Studies have shown that the positive benefits of neurofeedback can last for an extended period, which is a benefit over psychiatric medication.
How Neurofeedback Works
Neurofeedback therapy involves a Quantitative EEG or QEEG brain map as its first step. It is a non-invasive and painless process that measures the brain's electrical activity through sensors placed on the head.
The EEG Biofeedback data from this is statistically analyzed to determine brainwave patterns and diagnostic information, allowing practitioners to design a personalized protocol to address specific issues. In addition, this computer analysis highlights any variations from the norm and shows brain areas with too much or too little EEG activity.
After designing a customized protocol to address anxiety or other medical conditions, neurofeedback therapy begins. Using computer technology, patients are reinforced for changing their brainwave activity from a dysregulated pattern to a healthy one.
Visual and auditory stimuli, such as movies and dings, reinforce the brain whenever a pre-set goal is achieved. As a result, the therapy is enjoyable, and the brain quickly responds to the reinforcement. As a result, the brain begins to regulate, reducing symptoms over time.
The number of neurofeedback sessions varies from person to person, and most individuals require two sessions per week. At the same time, some may notice a reduction of symptoms after the first session, but most experience a gradual decrease over time (Luctkar-Flude et al., 2017).
Neurofeedback training, combined with psychotherapy, helps manage stress and address central nervous system dysregulation, underlying feelings, negative thinking, and behaviors, resulting in lasting change. Research shows the effectiveness of neurofeedback therapy for anxiety and depression, and it has been proven to be minimally invasive with minimal side effects (Hammond et al., 2016).
For children and teens with anxiety, neurofeedback helps by reducing anxious brain activities and improving brain function. It allows children to concentrate, manage their anxious thoughts, and alleviate physical symptoms such as stomach aches, headaches, and sleep disturbances.
By regulating the brain's structures and communication between different areas, neurofeedback can mitigate the overstimulation that leads to anxiety disorders. The root cause of anxiety disorders is the hyperactivity of the brain caused by internalized anxious thoughts and bodily sensations. In other words, the brain gets stuck in a pattern of over communication.
For kids with depression, neurofeedback therapy can effectively alleviate their symptoms by regulating mood and behavior. By regulating brain communication, neurofeedback can soften agitated behaviors. It also enhances alertness and impulse control and encourages a more positive outlook.
Depressed individuals often struggle to change their behavior positively due to their brains' sluggish or agitated state. Neurofeedback helps restore balance and calm, paving the way for behavioral changes.
Natural Solutions for Kid's Mental Health
While neurofeedback is an effective tool to calm the brain and produce long-term changes, it is not a magic wand that can make anxiety and depressive disorders disappear. Therefore, other natural treatment solutions should be carried out to address anxiety, depression, and behavioral issues. It is important to learn new behaviors that support healthy coping skills to manage frustration and stress.
Aside from neurofeedback, the child also can benefit from PEMF, cognitive behavioral therapy, nutrition, magnesium, and other dietary supplements. These methods are key in an effective treatment plan for your child.
Get guidance from qualified health professionals to know the ideal neurofeedback protocol and the estimated number of sessions required to promote positive mood and behavior in your child while improving their cognitive function. Most clinical conditions need two to three sessions per week over five to six months.
Besides anxiety and depression, neurofeedback is also helpful for children with autism spectrum disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and other psychiatric disorders. In addition, it can help address negative emotions, panic attacks, and poor executive function.
Ready to Get Started with Neurofeedback?
In our BrainBehaviorReset™, we work with children and their families all over the United States. We begin with a strategy session with Dr. Roseann and a QEEG or a brain check to see how the brain is functioning.
Dr. Roseann carefully crafts a custom care plan that incorporates the best of science shows that works in changing the brain and behavior.
If your child or teen is struggling with ADHD, anxiety, OCD, depression, or PANS/PANDAS and you just don’t know what to do, then it is time for a QEEG with Dr. Roseann.
Apply today to get started.
Curtin, S. C., & Heron, M. P. (2019, October). Welcome to CDC stacks |. Stacks.cdc.gov. https://stacks.cdc.gov/view/cdc/81944
Hammond, D. C., Novian, D. A., & Duffy, F. H. (2016, November 11). Comprehensive Bibliography of Neurofeedback Research. ISNR. https://isnr.org/isnr-comprehensive-bibliography
Lebrun-Harris, L. A., Ghandour, R. M., Kogan, M. D., & Warren, M. D. (2022). Five-Year Trends in US Children’s Health and Well-being, 2016-2020. JAMA Pediatrics, 176(7). https://doi.org/10.1001/jamapediatrics.2022.0056
Luctkar-Flude, M., Groll, D., & Tyerman, J. (2017). Using neurofeedback to manage long-term symptoms in cancer survivors: Results of a survey of neurofeedback providers. European Journal of Integrative Medicine, 12, 172–176. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.eujim.2017.06.003
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She is the founder and director of The Global Institute of Children’s Mental Health and Dr. Roseann Capanna-Hodge. Dr. Roseann is a Board Certified Neurofeedback (BCN) Practitioner, a Board Member of the Northeast Region Biofeedback Society (NRBS), Certified Integrative Medicine Mental Health Provider (CMHIMP) and an Amen Clinic Certified Brain Health Coach. She is also a member of The International Lyme Disease and Associated Disease Society (ILADS), The American Psychological Association (APA), Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) National Association of School Psychologists (NASP), International OCD Foundation (IOCDF) International Society for Neurofeedback and Research (ISNR) and The Association of Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback (AAPB).
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Disclaimer: This article is not intended to give health advice and it is recommended to consult with a physician before beginning any new wellness regime. *The effectiveness of diagnosis and treatment vary by patient and condition. Dr. Roseann Capanna-Hodge, LLC does not guarantee certain results.