Monday, December 15, 2008

EEG Biofeedback Training for Stage Fright and Performance Anxiety

EEG Biofeedback Training for Stage Fright and Performance Anxiety
From EEG Spectrum International
Posted by Justine

According to this article, our brains are capable of learning how to control the state of being anxious. The usual way this is done is called biofeedback. Much of this work deals with controlling anxiety states, which are worsened by stress. Anxiety states include panic attacks and phobias at one extreme, and such problems as performance anxiety and stage fright on the other. When the person is challenged to perform in some way, the brain reacts by overly heightened caution that actually undermines the ability to function well. This problem gets worse and worse, as the person becomes anxious, observes him or herself becoming anxious, and becomes even more anxious. At a time of future challenges, the anxiety response can be more readily kindled because of the memory of earlier failure to perform. Recently brainwave training has become available as a new option for doing biofeedback for stage fright, performance anxiety, and other anxiety states. This kind of learning is based on information derived directly from the brain's electrical activity, the EEG, which can reveal anxiety states. In this way, anxiety is seen as one manifestation of diminished self-regulation by the brain. If we challenge the brain to regulate itself better, it will likely later also function better under life's normal as well as extreme challenges. Once the brain has been trained to self-regulate, it is no longer as vulnerable to the disabling effects of anxiety. During EEG training for stage fright or performance anxiety, the person is shown information copied from his or her EEG in real time, and is asked to bring certain aspects of it under control. This training repeatedly challenges the brain to improve its own internal regulatory processes. The therapist adjusts the level of difficulty to the situation. This process is largely accomplished at a subconscious level. However, there may be some conscious awareness of changes taking place as the training proceeds. Eventually, the person may visualize situations in which they may have previously become anxious. They will see their brain waves change, and will actively bring them back under control.

I have to admit that I have a love hate relationship with performance anxiety. I personally believe you can’t put on a great performance without being somewhat anxious. Some people will even go further and say that when this anxiety stops happening, then you know you’ve become too comfortable with yourself and whatever you are doing. Some people who perform frequently and become used to performing have to create self-induced anxiety so that they have that little bit of adrenalin that will give the performance more spontaneity and pizzazz. Most people who are in the performance field probably experience a normal level of anxiety regularly, which helps some of these people get used to it and learn how to deal with it. On the other hand there are a number of people whose job requires some sort of performance aspect and their anxiety is often at times unbearable for them. For instance I have seen many musicians suffer from extreme anxiety before a show and it seems hardly worth it to put oneself through this. But what should these anxious people do when they actually love music so much that they have to perform it for others? I suppose this is where beta-blockers come into play or if possible the EEG biofeedback training. I’m not fond of beta-blockers because they take away that edge that one might need for a successful performance and they also don’t teach you how to deal with your anxiety they just block it. EEG biofeedback training on the other hand is harmless and will teach you how to deal with every situation that brings about anxiety into your life. I’m not quite sure how many sessions are required but in the article they say that once the brain has taught itself how to deal with anxiety, the brain tends to retain the skill it has learned, and follow up sessions are usually not required. This is a lot healthier than having to take a pill every time you perform. It seems as though this biofeedback training teaches one a lot about him or herself and what might trigger the anxiety. One of the first steps to treating anxiety is to acknowledge it and to nip it at the source. Biofeedback training seems to be a very effective and healthy step towards dealing with performance anxiety.

1 comment:

Lee Bartel said...

This is interesting. But what you seem to understand is that the person experiences anxiety, and then chooses to use the brain control to deal with it. That is in fact not how it works. With "brain training" - the ability to change from one brain state to another almost at will, the central mechanism that controls brainwave activity increase regulatory ability. Then when you are in state that requires focused attention one moment and relaxed rejuvenation another, the brain is able to do this - and mainly without any conscious effort. In other words you have created a more resilient self-regulating brain that "doesn't go crazy" and out of control - the main fear musicians have regarding anxiety. And that then does naturally what the beta blocker does artificially.