Today, we look at the brain activity that causes phobias and how Neurofeedback can help you overcome your fears permanently.
We all fear certain, specific things. For example, while you may have a fear of spiders, the next person may find cockroaches really scary. A person may not enter the pool due to their fear of water, while the fear of heights may make someone uncomfortable. Fear is a very common emotion.
However, fears are often confused with phobias whereas the fact is that the latter are more severe and permanent in nature. A phobia is a type of anxiety disorder that is characterized by a persistent and irrational fear of an object, or a situation. There are various kinds of phobias such as experiential phobias, which stem out of negative experiences, further developed by fear conditioning. These are usually associated with mental disorders such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and generalized anxiety disorder.
There are certain types of common phobias that kick in, depending on the situation. For instance, if a person has claustrophobia (fear of feeling trapped), he/she may feel excessively anxious in closed rooms or while taking the lift. Similarly, a person may freak out upon seeing a lizard or finding themselves in a dark room, due to their fear of darkness. With regards to such phobias, the fear response kicks in and goes away, once the situation improves. If the lizard is shooed away or lights are switched on in the darkroom, the person feels at ease.
However, there are some phobias that interfere with one’s everyday life. Agoraphobia is an example in which the person feels panicky when in open spaces. So many a time, the person avoids stepping out of the house, as the persistent fear that they are crippled by is uncontrollable. Social phobia or social anxiety is another example, where a person feels anxious during socialization. As a result, many people with this phobia avoid meeting others, which therefore affects their relationships, work, and more.
So how do we solve this problem? How do we overcome phobias?
In order to understand this, it’s important to know what happens inside our brains that causes phobias. Several neuroimaging studies have shown major changes in brain activity are responsible for causing phobias.
People who suffer from phobias have shown extreme activity in their central Amygdala, which is a brain region where the Amygdala neurons control our emotional reactions, emotional processing, fear mechanisms, fear processing, etc. The activity is particularly higher during phobia-inducing situations.
It has been observed that the right amygdala is more reactive when responding to negative emotions, like phobias. The left amygdala on the other hand is strong associated with pleasant emotions. One study suggested that the higher the Amygdala activation, the more likely is the person to experience extreme stress and anxiety disorder during phobia-inducing situations.
In individuals who were exposed to phobia-inducing situations for a prolonged time, brain regions such as the stria terminalis (orchestrates behavioral and emotional responses to stress), anterior cingulate cortex (helps in cognitive functions such as impulse control, decision-making, emotion), and insula (plays a role in functions related to basic survival needs such as taste, sensation) were found to be hyperactivated.
You would think that the brain gets immune to phobia-inducing situations after being exposed to them at a stretch. However, that’s not true. On the contrary, the brain gets more active and even involves more areas in coping with stress and anxiety.
It has also been found that people who live with phobias have an exaggerated fear conditionability, also referred to as expectancy bias. It is associated with under-activity in the lateral prefrontal cortex and the visual cortex, which are involved in brain processes such as memory, concentration, decision-making, etc. As a result, a thread may seem like a snake, a red drink may appear to be blood, so on and so forth.
Treatment for phobias
Various types of therapies such as cognitive behavior therapy, exposure therapy, etc., are often suggested to combat phobias. Aside from this, medication such as antidepressants, tranquilizers, beta-blockers, etc., is also given to reduce major anxiety disorders and stress. However, most of these medications come with moderate to sometimes severe side-effects that include sleep trouble, nausea, drowsiness, blurred vision, and more. As a result, people wish to opt for treatments that have minimal as well as temporary side effects and are non-invasive in nature.
Neurofeedback for treating phobias
In order for you to overcome your phobias permanently and in a safe way, brain training technology Neurofeedback is ideal. This is because it gets to the root of your problem, i.e., the imbalance in your brainwaves. While medication and therapy do help, Neurofeedback is the only form of treatment that restores the imbalances in the brainwaves and eliminates the problem from its root. As we have seen in this article, phobias occur due to certain areas of the brain being under and overactive. Neurofeedback, therefore, corrects these imbalances and makes each region function at its optimal level.
It is a clinically-proven, NASA-inspired, US-FDA-approved brain training technology. To know more about it and how it works, visit here.