Anxiety is the most common of all psychiatric disorders, affecting approximately 40 million people in the U.S. Common symptoms of anxiety include heart palpitations, knots in the stomach, headaches, racing thoughts and the overarching common denominator: an overwhelming sense of dread. Anxiety can be debilitating, keeping people from engaging with others, participating in activities and enjoying everyday life. Jenny, a 35-year-old software developer, describes her anxiety as, “I am in my own skin, but I don’t feel like I can be. I am mentally imprisoned to the point of physical imprisonment.”

Sadly, only a small percentage of those who suffer from anxiety will ever seek treatment. However, there is still a vast market of pharmaceutical drugs ready and waiting for those who need it. During any given year, 11-15 percent of Americans take a benzodiazepine, commonly called “benzos,” to treat their anxiety. Benzos work by altering GABA receptors in the brain which produce anti-anxiety, muscle relaxing and sedative effects. While this type of treatment can release sufferers from their mental cage, it is not without side effects. Common side effects include drowsiness, dizziness, and decreased alertness and concentration. Benzos are also known to impact multiple areas of thinking, including interfering with the formation and consolidation of memories, creating a type of amnesia for present-day events.

“I am in my own skin, but I don’t feel like I can be. I am mentally imprisoned to the point of physical imprisonment.”

A growing number of patients are therefore seeking alternatives to these medications. Implementing habits such as yoga and meditation have shown positive results. However, these often require consistent practice in order to be effective. For those with extreme anxiety, immediate results are needed. Jenny quit taking her medications out of sheer frustration over the side effects. “I shouldn’t have to swallow addictive pills to be myself again or just to fall asleep at night because my racing mind won’t subside,” Jenny said.

During any given year, 11-15 percent of Americans take a benzodiazepine, commonly called “benzos,” to treat their anxiety

Many, including Jenny, have found success with Cranial Electrotherapy Stimulation (CES). CES uses medical devices, such as Alpha Stim, about the size of a cell phone that send a pulsed, weak electrical current to the brain via electrodes placed on the ear lobes. This causes cortical deactivation, producing changes similar to those produced by medications, such as benzodiazepines. CES increases alpha activity–producing increased relaxation–decreases delta activity–reducing fatigue–and decreases beta activity–decreasing ruminative thoughts and improving focus–thus eliminating anxiety without the side effects seen in many pharmaceutical drugs. Jenny describes the relief she has found using her CES device as “freedom from the prison of anxiety without being numb to my emotions.” And to her, that feeling is priceless. 

 

For more information visit www.alpha-stim.com or www.kasihoward.com. Kasi Howard, Psy.D., is a licensed psychologist at the Alamo Wellness Group located at 6243 W Interstate 10 in San Antonio, TX 78201, and she can also be reached at 210.838.0090

About The Author

Dr. Howard is the Executive Director of Innova Recovery, a telehealth trauma treatment program. She is a Texas native and Baylor graduate who moved to San Antonio in 2009 for her pre-doctoral internship. After many years of working with at-risk and adjudicated youth, she began her transition to specialize in eating disorders and trauma. Dr. Howard has been intensively trained in Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), and Interpersonal Therapy. She has developed several group curriculums, including an educational support group for spouses and significant others of those who suffer from mental illness. She believes in the importance of engaging family in treatment. Dr. Howard served as President of the Bexar County Psychological Association. She has also taught at Trinity University and is passionate about promoting the field of psychology.

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