Anxiety can be a crippling disorder that can disrupt your life and make it difficult to function. When medications and conventional treatments fail, many people may feel as if there are no more options. In recent years, EMDR Therapy has been gaining recognition among both patients and doctors. It addresses both the emotional and mental aspects of anxiety in a natural therapeutic way.
There’s less risk of side effects involved with it compared to conventional treatments and it’s proven its worth in many different studies. For this reason, many physicians have chosen it as a first-line treatment.
But why is this form of therapy so effective and how does it work? What follows is a brief explanation, as well as several reasons why you should consider EMDR if you’re suffering from anxiety.
What is EMDR Therapy?
The concept behind eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) is that traumatic experiences or memories that cause anxiety are attached to negative feelings and thoughts.
When the therapist is conducting this type of treatment, the goal is to have the patient revisit the negative events and memories that may be causing their anxiety. By doing this in a more controlled and pleasant environment and by associating other stimulations with these memories, the brain can then have a better chance to adapt and cope with the problems.
The negative feelings that often cause anxiety are believed to be a result of the brain being unable to cope with what it has experienced and so it’s unable to adapt and to resolve these issues.
This helps to explain why many people turn to substance abuse involving drugs and alcohol after traumatic events and why people may binge eat when suffering severe depression.
These actions reflect an inability and further attempt to cope with the problem because the brain may be unable to heal and cope on its own the way it normally does. When the brain is able to cope with an issue this means that it’s able to detach memories from the negative feelings and thoughts that can trigger anxiety.
What Happens During EMDR Therapy?
There are many different techniques that are associated with this therapy. Therapists will normally decide which techniques to use depending on the patient, how much treatment they need, and how far along they are with their treatment course.
However, most therapists will have you go through a series of recommended steps that many experts follow in a certain order. Although different variations on this therapy have been created over the years, these steps are based on the original concept that was developed by the originator of this therapy, Dr. Francine Shapiro.
The first thing a therapist will normally do is ask you about past experiences that may be causing your anxiety. This is crucial for them to know so that they can have you recall the memories or thoughts that might be associated with this.
Therapists will normally have a discussion with you after this about both negative and positive things in your life. The point of this is so they can know which negative events they may have to target during the therapy in which positive events they have you recall in order to do that.
After this comes the bilateral stimulation (BLS) step, which is where you will be asked to not only recall the event but also to perform specific eye movements or other forms of stimulation while doing this.
Some more questions will normally be asked after this and you will be asked to recall the negative experience or memory once more to see if you still have the same emotional feelings attached to it. A calming technique can then be used to help close the session.
What Are the Benefits of EMDR Therapy?
There’s a wide range of benefits they can be gained from being treated with EMDR. Patients often report less anxiety, reduced stress, better clarity, and even less physical pain for those who have anxiety as an additional symptom of physical disorders.
Unlike medications or treatments that need to be retaken on a continual basis, the benefits of EMDR are often noticeable and long-lasting after just a few treatment sessions.
While this might sound like pseudoscience or may be hard to believe, there are many studies that have found evidence to support this. In a study on anxiety patients in which they were asked to recall certain events that cause and anxiety, a 1-2 hour session of EMDR treatment showed beneficial effects at a follow-up four weeks later.
In cases where anxiety might be a symptom of another medical disorder, this treatment has still proven its effectiveness. Substance use disorder (SUD) is a form of substance abuse that is often linked to both posttraumatic stress and anxiety.
One study that involved patients with this mental disorder found that those that were given EMDR treatment alongside regular treatments reported much less anxiety afterward compared to those who only received regular treatments without EMDR.
In those with epilepsy who suffered anxiety after experiencing seizures, EMDR was found to immediately reduce stress directly after treatment. It was also found to still be beneficial three months later long after treatment had finished.
Lastly, studies involving mice showed similar effects in which bilateral sensory stimulation, the same type used in EMDR therapy, caused a major reduction in fear. This effect was long-lasting in all the mice that were exposed to the sensory stimulation.
Promising Future Uses
All in all, EMDR therapy has quickly become one of the most exciting treatments for anxiety. It’s shown promise in numerous studies for being able to reduce both anxiety and fear. Doctors are adopting it and patients are reporting back excellent results.
It has potential as both a stand-alone treatment as well as an add-on therapy to existing treatments. As it continues to grow in popularity, many more beneficial uses for EMDR are sure to be discovered going forward.
You May Also Be Interested In
Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy is a form of psychotherapy that was designed to alleviate the distress associated with traumatic memories. It was developed by Francine Shapiro in 1988, and it has proven to be effective in treating conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, and anxiety.
Bustle covers 11 great strategies based on science to help high-functioning people with anxiety. Although most of us know to breathe, sleep well, take breaks, and not bite off more than we can chew on a daily basis, many people haven’t heard that new technology (BLAST) can offer fast stress relief while you go about your day.
For many people, conventional treatments and medications don’t always work. This is because they don’t always get to the root of the problem, especially when depression has been caused by traumatic experiences. If you’ve tried other therapies without success, you may want to look into a type of cognitive behavior therapy known as EMDR.