Stress Treatment

In 1980, the Drake Institute of Behavioral Medicine was originally founded to help patients with stress-related disorders and stress-related diseases, utilizing the mind-body connection as an essential part of our treatment process.

Since then, the Drake Institute has pioneered clinical medicine utilizing biofeedback and neurofeedback therapeutic technologies to help patients improve and/or resolve disorders and diseases brought on or exacerbated by stress.

Before the Drake Institute, the impact of stress on our physical and emotional health had not been addressed adequately in clinical medicine, and often went unrecognized or ignored.

Developments that Shaped & Advanced our Treatment Program

Drake’s first major breakthrough traces back to a clinical research study conducted with the Los Angeles Police Department in the early 1980’s. This study investigated the clinical success rate of our innovative treatment program, determining whether or not we could reverse stress disorders and diseases within people facing elevated stress exposure (including patients struggling with PTSD, Anxiety and Depression).

The Chief of Police (this is not confidential because it was publicly reported on by the news media) and a number of deputy police chiefs participated in the study, and the positive results were commended by Mayor Tom Bradley at a joint news conference. This clinical research study provided additional insight into how stress damages a person’s health, and more importantly, how reversing the psychophysiological stress process promotes restoring one’s mental state and body back to healthy functioning.

The next defining development in the progression of the Drake Institute's stress treatment program was another series of studies to investigate how stress affects the immune system in patients with stress disorders, and whether or not the Drake Institute’s stress treatment program could restore immunological functioning to healthy levels by reducing physiological tensions levels, causing stress symptoms to resolve. The first clinical study was run in conjunction with the UCLA School of Medicine (Los Angeles Times: Sept 1986 - Drake Institute), while a second follow-up study was run with UCLA School of Medicine and the Pasteur Institute in Paris.

This research further uncovered how stress weakens the immune system, but more importantly, it proved that Drake Institute's stress treatment program utilizing the mind-body interaction could improve and strengthen immunological functioning by reducing the patient's physiological tension levels, which led to symptom improvement. These findings produced more understanding and respect for the mind-body interaction as a powerful resource for treatment and healing.

Much of what we intuitively suspected back in 1980 with respect to how stress injures our health has been confirmed in research conducted during the past 36 years, and our own clinical results have shown that reversing stress can lead to a clinically significant positive impact on our health and well-being.

New Research

In 2015, a landmark study published in Nature announced that researchers had found a direct connection between the brain and lymphatic vessels, identifying for the first time how the brain and immune system are directly connected. This direct connection further supports our clinical results on improving disorders or illnesses involving stress and the immune system. Our record of clinical successes far exceeds the performance and success rates of existing therapies, going far beyond simple stress management techniques.

Facing Stress

Dealing with stress is a part of everyday life, but when we face enough stress, we can become vulnerable to the body breaking down or becoming dysregulated, resulting in illnesses or diseases. The more demanding your career and responsibilities are, the more stress you’re likely to experience. The goal of our program is not to avoid stress that often goes along with opportunities, but to improve your ability to neutralize its negative impact so you can have the best of both worlds. You don’t have to sacrifice your opportunities to stay healthy.

We feel the term “psychosomatic” can be misleading, as some people misinterpret it to suggest that it is the patient who is making themselves ill; our clinical experience shows that patients who develop stress-related illnesses definitely do not want to become sick, but under enough stress, anyone’s body can become dysregulated.

A more accurate definition of these types of illnesses would be to call them “Psychophysiological”, which means that our mind/brain and body are not only connected, but interacting with each other 24 hours a day. It is one system, so a change in a psychological state will cause a simultaneous change in one’s physiological state, and vice versa. An employee who was just notified of a performance raise will experience a different physiologic response than a job applicant who was just notified that he or she didn’t get the job they desired.

We are bound to face stressful events in our lives that we have no control over and which can trigger the “fight or flight response”, but it’s important to learn how to minimize the negative impact of that stress. In today’s ever-changing world, learning how to manage stress and understanding how to cope with stress have become increasingly important skills, especially since events that we cannot predict or prevent can occur and play a major impact on our lives. The death of a loved one, loss of a job, economic upturns and downturns, relationship conflicts, financial concerns, etc. are just a few of the many stressors that we experience in ordinary life.

When it comes to living a healthy, fulfilled live, managing stress and developing ways to relieve stress can be as important (if not more important) than our nutrition and physical activity levels.

Patients in the grips of a stress-related illness may not be able to overcome their disorder with simple stress management techniques. Instead, the Drake Institute uses FDA-approved biofeedback instrumentation to evaluate levels of physiological tensions in the body as reflected in muscle tension activity, autonomic nervous system activity via hand temperature and sweat gland activity in the fingers, and measure brain wave activity.

How Stress Causes Illness

When the "fight or flight response" gets activated from stress, the body starts pumping hormones such as cortisol, epinephrine (adrenaline), and norepinephrine into the blood stream. This activity results in increased heart rate and blood pressure, elevated blood sugar, increased amounts of cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood, faster blood clotting, rising muscle tension levels and the digestive system and immune system becoming slowed down or suppressed.

The problem with this physiological response is that our bodies and minds cannot stay in this “state” for a prolonged period of time without malfunctioning and becoming vulnerable to developing emotional and physical symptoms.

As an example, someone exposed to severe stress or mild, chronic stress may result in having their brain and body “get stuck” in a chronic stress state; eventually leading to the development of an illness or disorder. The body is simply not designed to function in an ongoing state of elevated tension and “fight or flight”. This can result in the immune system becoming dysregulated and underactived, with decreased capacity for fighting viruses, bacteria, and tumor cells.

Even the “common cold” can often be linked to stress! In some patients, the dysregulated immune system can also become abnormally overactived, which is associated with autoimmune diseases (like multiple sclerosis, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, etc.), and cause chronic inflammation which is linked to many debilitating conditions (like atherosclerosis, which is the buildup of plaque deposits on your artery walls causing coronary artery disease).

Many of our patients come to us after they’ve accumulated elevated levels of tension that they’re now acclimated to, completely unaware that their tension baseline has been undetectably increasing for many months (or years!) and is now abnormally high. These patients may have adapted to their new baseline, because it built up gradually over time and now feels normal to them. Unfortunately, these same patients may now be facing new unwanted symptoms due to the brain-body being dysregulated from acute and/or tension chronic stress.

The patient may have developed high blood pressure or sleeping problems, muscle tension or migraine headaches, gastrointestinal or digestive symptoms, more frequent colds or infections, anxiety, depression, fatigue, irritability, or even substance abuse/dependency. Because cumulative stress lowers your threshold for stress tolerance, people facing constant stressors may all of the sudden find that minor frustrations which never bothered them before now trigger significant stress reactions.

How Our Stress Treatment Works

After we’ve assessed physiological tension levels with biofeedback instrumentation and sometimes qEEG brain mapping technology, our patients then undergo biofeedback and neurofeedback treatments.

Biofeedback and neurofeedback enables the patient to achieve deep “regenerative levels of relaxation” that are very difficult (if not nearly impossible) to achieve on their own, or through traditional relaxation techniques, but they are accessible via our process because we provide real-time and ongoing feedback reflecting the level of relaxation that the patient attains. This feedback is essential to learning or acquiring a new skill, including psychophysiological relaxation and acquired self-regulation.

Feedback is necessary to learn and master any new skill. For example, you would be unable to learn balance on a bicycle without equilibrioception (sense of balance) which relies in part on visual feedback. Imagine trying to learn how to ride a bicycle while blindfolded, and you’ll get a better idea of how difficult it is to achieve the deep regenerative state of relaxation without the assistance of biofeedback and neurofeedback therapy.

Commonly, when people relax on their own, they simply go to a lower level of tension which feels more relaxed to their regular, now elevated baseline, but which typically does not reach true deep physiological relaxation necessary for the brain and body to shift back to a healthy homeostasis (normal physiological functioning in balance) and reduce unwanted symptoms of a stress disorder or disease.

This deeper state of relaxation must be sustained for a limited period of time, up to 30 minutes, to maximize the treatment effect, and allow the nervous system and body to reset back to more normalized functioning. Without assistance from biofeedback or neurofeedback technology, it would be extremely difficult (and perhaps even impossible) for a patient to achieve this state.

The Drake Institute’s Results

Since 1980, we’ve helped patients achieve clinical success with reducing or eliminating unwanted symptoms from the following disorders/diseases:

  • high blood pressure
  • elevated cholesterol
  • migraine headaches
  • tension headaches
  • peptic ulcer disease
  • colitis
  • post-traumatic stress disorder
  • agoraphobia
  • anxiety
  • OCD
  • depression
  • panic attacks
  • insomnia
  • substance abuse

The Drake Institute has also been able to help patients with disorders or diseases which may not have been caused by stress, but which are often exacerbated by stress, such as:

  • rheumatoid arthritis
  • lupus
  • cancer
  • multiple sclerosis
  • scleroderma
  • diabetes
  • emphysema
  • chronic fatigue syndrome
  • chronic pain
  • tinnitus
  • and many others

Over the years, more than 80% of our stress patients have significantly decreased their symptoms and discomfort, leading to significant improvements in their quality of life.

Many patients who came to us taking prescription drugs have been able to go medication-free by the end of their treatment process. For example, it is not unusual that our high blood pressure patients end up being able to restore their blood pressure to normal levels, no longer requiring medication.

Landmarks in Drake's Stress Treatment Development

1982-1983

Completed 2 year study with Los Angeles Police Department to help reduce stress diseases and disorders.

1984

Completed study with UCLA School of Medicine on how our stress treatment strengthens the immune system.

1984 - 1985

Dr. David Velkoff, Medical Director, was the medical consultant to the Los Angeles City Council's committee on reducing stress injuries in police officers.

1991

Completed joint study with UCLA School of Medicine and Pasteur Institute in Paris on how stress treatment strengthens immune system.

Disorders & Diseases Caused By or Negatively Affected By Stress

Cardiovascular

  • High Blood Pressure
  • Angina Pectoris
  • Coronary heart disease
  • Myocardial Infarction (Heart Attack)
  • Mitral Valve Prolapse Syndrome
  • Cardiac Arrhythmias

Gastrointestinal

  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome
  • Colitis
  • Peptic Ulcer Disease

Neurologic

  • Migraine Headaches
  • Parkinson's Disease
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Strokes

Psychological

  • Anxiety
  • Panic Attacks
  • Depression
  • Insomnia
  • Eating Disorders
  • Chemical Dependency / Substance Abuse
  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
  • Tension Headaches

Other

  • Autoimmune Disorders
  • Elevated blood levels of cholesterol
  • Diabetes Mellitus
  • Fibromyalgia
  • TMJ (from grinding teeth)
  • Raynaud's Syndrome
  • Tinnitus

At the Drake Institute, our treatment programs help patients overcome stress disorders and illnesses by enabling them to develop psychophysical self-regulation skills, which reverse stress reactions and can empower them to reduce the effects of stress on their emotional and physical well-being for years to come.

To get help for you or your loved ones with a screening consultation at no charge, please call us at 1-800-700-4233.

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