10 Ways Looking at Your Brain Can Help with Anxiety
Marsha was 36 when she had her first panic attack. It hit unexpectedly in her familiar neighborhood grocery store. Right there in one of the aisles, her heart started racing, she had trouble catching her breath, and it felt like the world was closing in on her. She abandoned her shopping cart and raced outside to her car, where she sobbed for over an hour. Over time, the anxiety and panic attacks became more debilitating, and Marsha eventually gave up her job as a critical care nurse and basically stopped going outside her house.
She tried going to a counselor, who taught her relaxation techniques and strategies to overcome her negative thoughts, but it didn’t help. Marsha refused to take any medication because she had seen how her mother, who had also suffered from panic attacks, had become addicted to Valium. Marsha thought the drugs had changed her mother’s personality and made her mean. She also thought she should be able to tough it out and handle the problem on her own.
In an effort to help his wife, Marsha’s husband took her to a psychiatrist for a brain scan. The SPECT brain imaging study indicated increased activity in the right side of her basal ganglia, an area involved in setting the body’s anxiety level. Marsha’s setting was too high.
When Marsha saw her brain scan and realized that her problem was biological, not psychological, it made her willing to try medication along with other therapies. After two months on her treatment program, Marsha was feeling good enough to leave the house and return to work. Eventually, she gained control over her anxiety and panic attacks and was able to go off the medication.
A brain scan helped Marsha get her life back.
Here are 10 ways SPECT brain scans can help you with your anxiety.
1. Seeing is believing.
For Marsha, seeing her SPECT brain scan convinced her that her condition wasn’t something that she should be able to control on her own. It made her realize that taking medication might be necessary.
2. Brain scans show that anxiety is not just one thing.
Most people assume that those with anxiety all have the same symptoms and issues. This isn’t true. Brain imaging reveals that anxiety is not a single or simple disorder. In fact, there are 7 different brain patterns associated with the condition, and each one requires a targeted treatment program. The 7 types of anxiety are:
Type 1: Pure Anxiety
Type 2: Pure Depression
Type 3: Mixed Anxiety/Depression
Type 4: Over-focused Anxiety/Depression
Type 5: Temporal Lobe Anxiety/Depression
Type 6: Cyclic Anxiety/Depression
Type 7: Unfocused Anxiety/Depression
3. Brain imaging helps minimize feelings of guilt.
Many people with anxiety feel like their condition is a sign of weakness or a personal failure. This can prevent you from seeking help, which compounds the problem. When you realize that anxiety isn’t your fault, it’s much easier to seek the help you need.
4. Brain scans give your loved ones better understanding and empathy.
Some family members may have a hard time understanding your struggles with anxiety or panic attacks. They may think you aren’t trying hard enough to get over it. Seeing your brain scan can help them realize that your condition is biological in nature.
5. Brain imaging can reveal unsuspected causes of your anxiety.
Anxiety can be caused by many things, such as neurohormonal imbalances, post-traumatic stress syndrome, or head injuries. Brain scans can offer clues to potential root causes of your anxiety, which can help find the most effective treatment plan.
6. Seeing your brain can give you brain envy.
When people see their own brain scan compared with a healthy brain scan, it can prompt them to develop brain envy. Wanting a better brain makes you more inclined to follow a treatment plan. It also encourages you to make simple yet powerful lifestyle changes that optimize brain function.
7. Brain scans can reveal if anti-anxiety medications are harming your brain.
Brain imaging has shown that some anti-anxiety pills are actually damaging to overall brain function. For example, benzodiazepines lower brain activity is associated with memory and cognitive function problems, and an increased risk for Alzheimer’s disease. Finding treatments that don’t impair brain functioning is critical for better health.
8. Imaging tests can reveal other conditions.
Did you know that 75% of the time anxiety and depression occur together? SPECT brain imaging offers important information that helps you see if you may have depression (or other issues) in addition to anxiety.
9. Brain imaging takes the guesswork out of treatment.
When it comes to treatment in the field of psychiatry, providers basically throw darts in the dark at conditions. Brain imaging offers objective data for more targeted and effective solutions. And looking at your own before-and-after SPECT brain scans offers an ideal opportunity to see how well your treatment is working. Seeing improvement in your brain imaging tests offers motivation to stick with your program. And imaging lets your doctor know if adjustments could enhance your progress.
10. SPECT brain scans offer a sense of hope.
Seeing the scans of patients who have overcome anxiety and regained their life can be so powerful in giving you the hope and belief that you can get your anxiety under control.
At Amen Clinics, we use SPECT brain imaging as part of a comprehensive brain-body evaluation for people with anxiety. Our integrated approach to diagnosis and treatment includes looking at the biological, psychological, social, and spiritual aspects of your life to identify areas that can be optimized. To learn more, call 888-288-9834 to talk to a specialist today or schedule a visit.