When you get angry, sad, have a bad day, or experience a joyous occasion, your brain is naturally able to help you sort through and make sense of all those experiences., But when you experience trauma, the brain can begin to struggle to process experiences, thoughts, and emotions properly. Experiencing trauma changes the way you think about yourself and the world around you. The aftermath of facing a traumatic event(s) can have negative effects on your ability to manage daily activities such as interpersonal relationships, school, career, and self-care.
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy in a noninvasive, evidence-based model of physiotherapy. It aims to help individuals who have suffered psychological trauma recover from negative effects and symptoms through adaptive information processing.
The Adaptive Information processing (AIP) model states that mental and physical health is supported by repeated positive experiences in one’s life that continue to prepare a person to handle new challenges, making the brain fully equipped to manage and process adversity. Over time many internal and external factors can change the brain and body’s natural knowledge of how to heal.
EMDR treatment and procedures can then be used to help an individual regain stability in their mental health and the ability to process difficult memories and situations. This ultimately results in the reduction and absence of risk factors and symptoms from a variety of mental health diagnoses and traumatic experiences.
EMDR therapy helps an individual learn new coping skills to support optimal functioning in physical and mental health as well as daily responsibilities and activities.
EMDR is a treatment that is helpful to those who struggle to talk about past experiences. During EMDR therapy sessions, traumatic or triggering experiences are talked about in brief segments while a therapist uses tools such as direct eye movements. This is called “bilateral stimulation.”
EMDR is effective because it allows an individual to talk about distressing events while their attention is partially diverted. This makes therapy less emotionally upsetting and eliminates having a strong physiological response during the healing process.
EMDR is known to effectively be used to treat the following mental health disorders and medical conditions:
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): A mental health condition that develops following a traumatic event. People with PTSD often experience flashbacks and nightmares of the event, isolation, increased anger and irritability, negative thoughts, and constant apathy.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD): A mood disorder characterized by intense, excessive feelings of fear and worry about everyday situations. People with anxiety disorders often feel sudden feelings of intense fear or terror that reach within minutes (panic attacks). It is important to note that there are a variety of different types of anxiety disorders, including social anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and some pertaining to specific phobias, all of which can become prevalent after experiencing a traumatic event.
Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD): Characterized by an unreasonable or heightened fear of interacting with others and being in social situations (social phobia). Fears of not being able to escape disaster when in a crowd, appearing in crowded places, participating in social activities, and public speaking. People with SAD also tend to feel an overwhelming worry and self-consciousness about others judging them or being publicly embarrassed or ridiculed.
Depression: A mood disorder that causes persistent feelings of sadness and loss of interest. Depressive disorders can cause sleep disturbances, feelings of worthlessness and guilt, trouble in focus and decision making, recurrent thoughts of death and suicide, and unexplained physical pain.
Addiction: An addiction is a chronic dysfunction of the brain’s reward system resulting in the obsessive pursuit of pleasure-seeking behaviors that are often destructive to the individual’s wellbeing. Addiction can involve alcohol, drugs, other substances, or behaviors such as self-harm or gambling. Addiction can lead to serious health problems and negative consequences like bankruptcy.
Eating Disorders: Irregular and harmful eating habits combined with severe distress about weight and body.
Dual Diagnosis: A combination of any two or more mental health diagnosis’, trauma, and addictions.
EMDR Therapy can really work in helping individuals to process past trauma and relieve negative symptoms of other mental health problems. Currently, EMDR is a highly regarded treatment for PTSD and treating depressed individuals.
Studies show that 84%-90% of victims that have experienced a traumatic event in their lives had no more symptoms of PTSD after three 90-minute sessions. In another study done by the Veterans Association, results showed that 77% of combat veterans showed no signs or symptoms of PTSD after 12 sessions.
In helping an individual process complex experiences, EDR has lasting effects on a personals health and wellbeing by changing their intellectual and emotional belief systems about the trauma they experienced.
Trauma is often complex and unique to the individual. EMDR treatment has been known to help survivors of sexual abuse, childhood neglect, abandonment, domestic violence, military combat, grief, natural disasters, and victims of violent crime.
Just as all traumas are different, the timeline of the need for EMDR services varies as well. Sessions are usually an hour-long, and participants engage in therapy on average for 1-3 months. With this type of therapy, you can expect to feel better throughout the process, not just at the end.
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