Janie recently entered therapy with me to address symptoms related to domestic violence. She had left her abusive marriage several years before, but recently, she had been experiencing increased nightmares, difficulty sleeping, and high anxiety. She struggled to concentrate at work, and was having a lot of trouble with crying spells.
Why EMDR is Effective in Treating Trauma
Trauma tends to be cumulative, and the isolation from the pandemic was most likely activating post traumatic symptoms. I decided to use Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing with her, and her symptoms began to abate after 4-5 sessions.
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, or EMDR, is a therapeutic protocol used in the treatment of mental and emotional trauma. It has been widely praised in the mental health field, and is endorsed as an effective treatment for trauma by the American Psychiatric Association, and the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies (ISTSS).
Those suffering from major traumas such as physical assault, sexual assault, combat, or the sudden death of a loved one can benefit from EMDR therapy. Sessions work to alleviate PTSD symptoms such as flashbacks, nightmares, difficulties in sleeping, and feelings of depression, isolation, and anxiety.
Recent research has pointed to the fact that PTSD symptoms can also result from less intense life events, such as hurtful experiences in childhood, or what therapist call attachment wounds. In other words, it is not just what happens to us that matters, but it is also what doesn’t happen or what we don’t get that matters. In many cases, these adverse childhood events lead to greater long term symptoms than intense event traumas such as combat or assaults.
It is often the meaning we make of events that determine the resulting symptoms. If we can find a cause and a meaning outside of our own guilt, we tend to have fewer PTSD symptoms from the event than if we blame something within ourselves for the event.
In either case, when trauma is experienced there is disruption in how the brain processes information. In a brain that has not experienced a shocking event, processing systems digest information about what has been experienced and makes appropriate connections.
During a traumatic event, the brain’s processing system is disrupted. The limbic system can continue to be in a state of reaction since the emotions and body sensations are not released. EMDR theory believes that symptoms are a result of incomplete processing of the traumatic event. Trauma memories tend to be stored without a coherent sense of time, which leads to the feeling as if the past trauma is about to happen again, or is happening in that moment.
EMDR protocols help to access these memory networks, and help move them from an activated emotional reaction to a more rational place. EMDR uses bilateral stimulation and dual awareness techniques to change the way the memories are stored so the person can recognize the traumatic events as in the past and recognize they are safe in the present.
EMDR has been shown to treat a variety of problems effectively including:
- Panic Attacks
- Complicated Grief
- Pain Disorders
- Performance Anxiety
- Sexual Abuse
- Physical Abuse
If you or a loved one is suffering from any of the above and believe you may benefit from EMDR, please contact me . I can help.