Does EMDR Work? EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) therapy has been declared an effective trauma treatment by a wide range of evidence-based organizations. EMDR uses bilateral stimulation to help reprocess negative memories and densistize these in our mind and body.
Symptoms of Trauma
EMDR can help those suffering from major traumas such as sexual or physical assault, combat experiences, accidents or the sudden death of a loved one can be diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)if certain symptoms exist. These include intrusive thoughts of the event; nightmares or flashbacks; avoidance of reminders of the incident and increased arousal, which can include problems such as sleep difficulties; irritability; being easily startled, panic attacks or having difficulty concentrating.
Additionally, unexplained physical symptoms, including fatigue, gastrointestinal problems and pain can also go along with this disorder. Anyone suffering from PTSD or even complex PTSD (C-PTSD) can benefit from EMDR therapy.
EMDR and Unprocessed Memories
The negative impact on the person’s sense of self takes place since, just as with diagnosed PTSD, “unprocessed memories” are running the show. However, if an experience is too disturbing, it disrupts the system, causing the memory to be stored with the negative emotions, physical sensations and beliefs and the past becomes the present.
That’s where EMDR therapy can help. When a person is held back from doing things he or she would like to do by feelings of anxiety, fear, or unremitting sadness, and avoiding people or situations — the reason can generally be found in the memory networks. Many times the problems are unprocessed memories from the past that are interfering with the present.
Generally, there are three categories of negative feelings and beliefs that can emerge with PTSD. These are the feelings of not being good enough, not being safe, or not being in control. If we often feel insecure, fearful or anxious — or notice that these feelings arise intensely in certain situations — we have the tendency to blame ourselves. Friends aren’t able to reassure us no matter how hard they try, because the problem is generally caused by the unprocessed memories associated with the negative emotions, physical sensations and beliefs.
When certain things happen in the present — even minor ones, like the expression on someone’s face — the memories can get triggered and the emotions, beliefs and accompanying sensations (like a tightness in stomach or chest) surface. We don’t get an image that goes along with it, so we don’t realize it’s really the “old stuff.” Then, since our distress can debilitate us, we may have problems interacting with people in the present, causing new memories of “failures” to be stored and thus increase the problem. That’s how depressions can also increase: our new negative experiences just dig the hole more deeply.
Goal of EMDR
EMDR therapy is not limited to simply taking symptoms away. It addresses the past, present and future. The goal is to allow the person to achieve a complete state of emotional health. It has also been used to help athletes, performers and executives to achieve a state of “peak performance.” At Austin Trauma Therapy Center, we have experienced therapists trained in EMDR.