Whether you’re struggling with anxiety related to past trauma or are finding yourself easily triggered and quick to anger, sometimes you need more than traditional therapy. That’s where EMDR therapy comes in. But what is EMDR good for and what does it actually do?
EMDR, which stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, is based on the idea that negative experiences can get “stuck” in the brain, leading to issues like anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
EMDR therapy aims to not just talk about and reframe negative experiences, but actually re-process these experiences in the brain. Through reprocessing, the experiences can be integrated in a less triggering way, reducing symptoms and improving well-being.
So what is EMDR good for, specifically? Research has shown it is effective in treating a variety of mental health conditions, from PTSD, anxiety, and depression to addiction, phobias, and OCD.
Keep reading to learn more about how EMDR works and discover if an EMDR therapist is right for you.
How Does EMDR Work?
EMDR is a research-backed therapy proven to be effective for those who have experienced trauma and other negative experiences. Trauma changes the brain and body in real ways. EMDR therapy can support the brain in healing from trauma.
During a traumatic event – or even negative events that may not seem traumatic at the time – our brain processes and stores memories incorrectly. This can make past memories feel emotionally charged even years later.
These memories can trigger intense symptoms and even lead to mental health conditions. Sometimes traumatic events that you don’t consciously remember can also cause these kinds of symptoms.
EMDR therapy helps the brain re-process and re-organized traumatic experiences so that they lose their emotional charge. EMDR mirrors the brain’s natural healing process by using bilateral stimulation.
During an EMDR session, your therapist will guide you through a series of eye movements and other physical processes, such as physically tapping your legs or shoulders with your hands or listening to left and right audio tones through headphones.
These steps help the brain re-process painful memories of trauma and move them to a less emotional part of the brain.
9 Conditions EMDR Is Good For
EMDR was originally developed for patients dealing with trauma and is still used for trauma treatments today. But it can also improve symptoms for patients struggling with a wide variety of mental health conditions.
EMDR for Trauma
For people with past trauma, EMDR therapy focuses first on identifying the traumatic memories at the root of symptoms. While some patients may be clearly aware of the experiences causing issues, others may not.
One of the unique aspects of EMDR therapy is the fact that it can help people process traumatic memories without having to talk about the event in detail. This can be especially helpful for people who may be hesitant or unable to discuss the trauma.
EMDR therapy can help treat a variety of trauma-related disorders, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), complex trauma, and anxiety disorders.
EMDR for Attachment Trauma
EMDR therapy can also help treat attachment trauma. Attachment trauma is a type of trauma that results from disruptions in early attachment relationships, such as neglect or abuse from a primary caregiver. The resulting attachment patterns can impact an individual’s ability to form healthy relationships and lead to symptoms like anxiety, depression, and difficulty regulating emotions.
EMDR therapy can help people with attachment trauma process and integrate their early attachment experiences, improving emotional regulation, developing healthier attachment patterns, and even changing their attachment styles.
EMDR for PTSD
PTSD can occur in individuals who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event such as a natural disaster, war, sexual or physical assault, or a serious accident. Symptoms can include intrusive thoughts or memories of the traumatic event, avoidance of triggers related to the trauma, hyperarousal, and negative changes in mood or thoughts.
PTSD is one of the most common mental health disorders treated with EMDR therapy. Over time, EMDR patients may find that their response to the traumatic memory becomes less intense, and they are better able to manage their emotions and thoughts related to the event.
Research has shown that EMDR therapy is a highly effective treatment for PTSD. In a meta-analysis of studies comparing EMDR therapy to other treatments for PTSD, EMDR therapy was found to be more effective in reducing symptoms of PTSD than other treatments.
EMDR for Anxiety
EMDR therapy has also been shown to be a promising treatment for anxiety disorders, including generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and specific phobias.
EMDR therapy can help individuals with anxiety disorders identify and process underlying traumatic memories or negative beliefs that may be contributing to their anxiety symptoms and can help reduce symptoms caused by these triggers.
During EMDR therapy for anxiety, the therapist will work with the individual to identify specific triggers or thoughts. The individual will then be asked to focus on those triggers while engaging in bilateral stimulation techniques, so it can be processed in a more adaptive way.
EMDR for Panic Attacks
EMDR therapy is a promising treatment for panic attacks. Panic attacks are a type of anxiety disorder that can cause sudden and intense feelings of fear or discomfort, often accompanied by physical symptoms such as heart palpitations, sweating, and trembling.
Panic attacks can be triggered by various factors, including traumatic experiences, negative beliefs, and phobias. Sometimes, panic attacks are not caused by any obvious trigger and the attacks themselves may be processed as traumatic events. This may cause frequent panic attacks and develop into panic disorder.
EMDR for panic attacks can help sufferers identify what may be triggering these episodes and help break the cycle of panic and anxiety.
EMDR for Depression
Depression is commonly treated with cognitive behavioral therapy, other forms of talk therapy, and sometimes medication. But in recent years, using EMDR for depression has become more common.
EMDR therapy can be a particularly useful tool when depression is associated with past traumatic experiences. The process of EMDR can help people struggling with depression to identify and process memories, beliefs, or experiences that may be contributing to their symptoms.
In a study of people with depression and a history of trauma, those who received EMDR therapy showed significant improvements in their symptoms compared to those who did not do EMDR.
EMDR for Phobias
Much like EMDR can help with anxiety and panic, it can also be helpful for people struggling with specific phobias or fears. Phobias can cause significant distress and interfere with daily life. And while some phobias may not have any obvious root cause, many stem from past trauma.
During EMDR for phobias, a therapist helps the patient identify the specific trigger causing the fear. The bilateral stimulation techniques used in EMDR sessions will be performed while the patient focuses on this trigger.
Research has shown that EMDR therapy can be effective in treating phobias. In a study of individuals with specific phobias, such as fear of flying or fear of spiders, those who received EMDR therapy showed significant improvements in phobia symptoms compared to those who did other forms of therapy or treatment.
EMDR for Addiction
In addition to trauma, anxiety and depression, EMDR can also help with treatment for addiction. This is particularly helpful when addiction is associated with past traumatic experiences.
EMDR therapy can help individuals struggling with addiction identify the underlying trauma that may be contributing to their substance abuse, helping them reprocess these experiences or memories.
With the help of an EMDR therapist, an individual struggling with an addiction can respond less emotionally to their triggers, giving them more capacity to seek other addiction treatments and focus on their recovery.
EMDR for OCD
EMDR can also help individuals living with OCD, or Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. OCD is characterized by intrusive thoughts and repetitive behaviors performed to alleviate anxiety and distress.
EMDR for OCD can help patients identify the specific obsessions and compulsions causing their distress, and work to identify any past trauma or negative beliefs that may be contributing to their symptoms.
Research has shown that EMDR therapy can improve OCD symptoms, reducing repetitive behaviors and intrusive thoughts.
Ready to Work with an EMDR Therapist?
If you’re struggling with past trauma or are experiencing other mental health symptoms that are impacting your daily life, you don’t need to face it alone. Even if you’ve tried therapy in the past and didn’t see a reduction in symptoms, working with an experienced EMDR therapist could help.
EMDR therapy can help you actually re-process negative experiences, thoughts, and beliefs. For many patients, EMDR is not just a temporary fix – it offers lasting relief from symptoms of anxiety, depression, PTSD, and more.
If you’re interested in learning more about EMDR therapy and looking for an online EMDR therapist, contact Couples Learn today. Our trauma-informed EMDR therapists are ready to help you live with fewer symptoms.