Research shows that 60 to 70% of people with ADHD also experience social anxiety disorder. It’s a staggering statistic, but there’s hope for those who suffer from these interconnected conditions: brainspotting.
This innovative therapy has been gaining popularity recently for its ability to treat both ADHD and social anxiety, thanks to its focus on the brain-body connection.
Brainspotting targets the areas of the brain that hold onto past traumas and attempts to reset the body’s response to them. By reprocessing these traumas, feelings of anxiety and hyperactivity can be significantly reduced or even eliminated altogether. It’s an emerging therapy that’s challenging the norm of traditional talk therapy and helping people live happier, healthier lives.
This quick guide will explore the ins and outs of brainspotting, how it works, and what makes it so effective. But first, let’s define what ADHD and social anxiety are so you can understand how brainspotting helps.
What is ADHD?
Everyone forgets their keys from time to time, but for those with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), forgetfulness is a common and chronic issue.
ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects approximately (according to recent, updated research) about 3.5% of the entire US population, or over 1.1 million people nationwide.
Three main symptoms typically characterize ADHD:
For people with ADHD, it can be challenging to focus on daily tasks such as schoolwork, job responsibilities, or even conversations with friends or family. The cause of ADHD is not known, but it’s believed to be a combination of genetic, neurological, and environmental factors.
Diagnosis typically occurs during childhood but can also be diagnosed in adults who have experienced symptoms since childhood.
What is Social Anxiety?
Social anxiety, also known as social phobia, is a debilitating mental health condition that affects approximately 15 million Americans. It’s characterized by intense fear and avoidance of social situations where others might scrutinize or judge one.
People with social anxiety can experience a range of symptoms, from trembling and sweating to panic attacks and nausea. Causes of social anxiety can vary widely, from genetic factors to negative experiences in childhood or adolescence. Research also suggests that imbalances in brain chemicals like serotonin and dopamine may contribute to the development of social anxiety.
Despite its prevalence, social anxiety is often misunderstood and undertreated. Like ADHD, if left untreated, social anxiety can have significantly impact a person’s life and overall well-being.
ADHD and Social Anxiety
Living with both ADHD and social anxiety can be a challenging experience.
It’s like being stuck in a never-ending cycle of restlessness and fear. You constantly worry about what others might think of you, and the fact that you struggle to stay focused or perform at your best can often increase the worry or fear. Feeling like you’re not living up to your potential while constantly being misunderstood is frustrating.
Like other neurological and mental conditions, ADHD and social anxiety often coexist and can compound one another, making it challenging to focus, form relationships, and thrive in academic or professional environments. The burden of coping with both disorders daily can be overwhelming, leading to feelings of frustration, hopelessness, and low self-esteem.
Fortunately, brainspotting offers a unique approach to treating both ADHD and social anxiety by targeting the underlying neurobiological mechanisms that contribute to these conditions.
What is Brainspotting?
Brainspotting is a unique form of therapy created by David Grand, Ph.D., as part of his work in the early 2000s regarding Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy, a helpful technique for trauma recovery and other persistent mental or neurological issues.
Brainspotting focuses on the connection between the body and the brain. Specifically, it targets the area where emotions and physical sensations intersect.
The idea is that when we experience trauma, the feelings associated with it can get “stuck” in our bodies and minds. This, in turn, can lead to a wide range of symptoms, including anxiety, depression, and even physical pain.
How Does Brainspotting Work?
So, how does brainspotting aim to address this “stuckness?”
The technique involves using eye movements to access different parts of the brain. A trained therapist will ask the patient to focus on a specific point in their visual field (called a “brainspot”) while recalling traumatic memories. This visual focus is believed to activate the emotional and physical sensations associated with the trauma, allowing them to be processed and released.
As mentioned, brainspotting was developed by psychologist David Grand in the early 2000s after he noticed that his clients seemed to benefit from focusing their gaze on particular spots in the room during therapy sessions. Over time, he refined the technique to what it is today.
The Science Behind Brainspotting
While brainspotting is a relatively new technique (at least compared to Freudian techniques and theories developed in the late 1800s), it’s based on established principles of neuroscience and psychology.
For example, it’s well known that the brain’s memory and emotional centers are closely connected. When we recall a traumatic event, our bodies can re-experience the physical sensations present at the time (the body truly does keep the score). These sensations can then trigger emotional responses.
In essence, brainspotting works by “resetting” the brain’s response to traumatic memories. By accessing the visual field that corresponds to the particular memory, a great therapist can help the patient integrate the experience, releasing the emotional and physical sensations associated with it.
Benefits of Brainspotting Therapy
Whether you have ADHD, social anxiety, or are simply looking for a holistic and innovative way to deal with emotional and physical pain, brainspotting therapy is a great option to consider.
Results vary from one patient to the next. Speaking with a licensed professional is the best way to chat about potential benefits, results, and techniques. However, here are some benefits patients experience when incorporating brainspotting into ongoing therapy.
If you suffer from chronic pain due to traumatic events or other comorbidities, you know how difficult it is to find the right treatment option. Brainspotting therapy uses a holistic approach to processing trauma, helping reduce physical pain resulting from psychological stress. This approach helps your body release natural healing hormones, endorphins, and dopamine.
Less Painful Memories
Unresolved emotional pain can haunt us for years, impacting our daily lives and preventing us from moving forward. Brainspotting therapy helps deal with past traumas that are the root of so much pain and stress in our lives. By working with a qualified therapist, you can learn how to process and integrate those painful memories, reducing their impact on your present-day functioning.
You might benefit from some brainspotting therapy sessions if you’re constantly tired, sluggish, or unmotivated. During the therapy sessions (both those that include brainspotting and regular cognitive behavioral therapy), your body can go through a process of synchronization and re-balancing, which helps increase the oxygen flow to your brain and body, enhancing your energy levels.
Better Sleep Quality
Many individuals with ADHD and social anxiety have trouble sleeping due to racing thoughts, obsessive thinking, and other psychological factors. Brainspotting therapy can be an effective way to promote overall calmness, relaxation, and improved sleep quality. You can start experiencing better sleep quality within just a few brainspotting sessions.
Fewer Negative Thoughts
Having negative thoughts can be challenging, especially if you feel like you’re fighting an endless battle. Brainspotting therapy helps rewire negative thought patterns and promote a positive outlook. Your therapy sessions will help you replace negative and stressful thoughts with healthy and positive ones, leading to a better and more peaceful state of mind.
Calmer State of Mind
One of the most immediate benefits of brainspotting therapy is a calmer state of mind. By processing and releasing stress, trauma, and other pent-up emotions, individuals experience a natural sense of calmness and peace, allowing them to focus on the present and experience their day-to-day lives with more clarity and joy.
Brainspotting Session: What to Expect
If you’ve decided to try brainspotting, you might feel a bit nervous about what to expect in your first session.
While our therapists in Nashville work to tailor their sessions to the patient’s needs and can help quell any fear or nerves you might have about starting therapy for ADHD and social anxiety, here’s a breakdown of what typically happens during a session so you can go in with a clear mind.
Step 1: Relaxation Techniques
Before diving into the brainspotting process, your therapist will start by helping you get into a more relaxed state. This can involve simple breathing exercises or listening to bilateral sounds through headphones to help your brainwaves synchronize.
Step 2: Ranking Your Distress
The next step involves identifying a place in your body where you feel the most distress and ranking it on a scale of one to ten. This helps your therapist pinpoint where you’re experiencing the most anxiety or discomfort and where to focus your attention.
Step 3: Find Your “Brain Spot”
With the therapist’s guidance, you will find your “brain spot.” This is the point where you feel most “stuck” and where you would like to focus your attention during the session. Your therapist may use a pointer rod or finger to help you identify the exact spot your eyes focus on when you feel that pain.
Step 4: Outside or Inside Window Approach
There are two approaches your therapist might take during the session: the “Outside Window” or the “Inside Window.” With the “Outside Window” approach, your therapist observes your gaze and recommends a point to focus on. Alternatively, using the “Inside Window” approach, you decide where to direct your attention to an internal point.
Step 5: Working Through the Distress
Once you have identified your brain spot and settled into focusing on it, your therapist will help guide you through any emotions or sensations that arise. This can involve asking you to describe your feelings and using techniques such as tapping or eye movement to help you process the distress.
Step 6: Closing Out the Session
Towards the end of the session, your therapist will check in with you to see how you’re feeling. You might discuss strategies to use daily to manage your symptoms and set goals for future sessions. Ultimately, each brainspotting session is unique, and your therapist will tailor it to your needs to ensure you get the most out of each session.
Brainspotting and Other Techniques
If you’re looking to overcome ADHD and social anxiety, brainspotting is a promising technique to try. While helpful on its own, it can combined with other forms of therapy to boost its benefits.
For instance, it can be integrated into cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) sessions or even Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy sessions. This combination can help you process what’s holding you back faster and with greater depth. The result is that you can often work through your struggles more effectively than using either approach alone.
However, it’s helpful to remember that to get the most out of brainspotting, you have to be willing to address painful memories and feelings. You can’t afford to be afraid to dive deep, which may mean feeling uncomfortable at first.
So, before you start, research and prepare for the emotional work involved. Some tips to remember include self-care practices for when you finish up. These could include things like mindfulness, exercise, or spending time with loved ones.
If you’re in Nashville and interested in trying brainspotting, contact a licensed therapist specializing in brainspotting. Some may have a specific focus on ADHD or social anxiety, so keep that in mind when doing your research.
A great place to start is right here at Therapie, where we serve high-functioning professionals to improve their lives, work, and relationships. We offer individual and couples therapy, workshops, and online courses.
Book a Free Consultation with Nashville Therapists
Brainspotting is a unique therapeutic approach that can help treat ADHD and social anxiety. With a focus on identifying and releasing deep-seated emotional blockages, it can help individuals overcome their challenges and live a happier, more fulfilling life.
If you or someone you know is struggling with ADHD and social anxiety, schedule a free consultation with us at Therapie and discover the benefits of brainspotting yourself. We’re here to help!