What is EMDR?

EMDR is an early and commonly practiced trauma protocol that was developed in the 1980’s before the neurobiology of trauma was understood. The acronym stands for “eye movement desensitization and reprocessing” and is a very simple but effective approach to reducing the long-lasting effects of distressing memories by engaging the brain’s natural adaptive information processing mechanisms. This helps to alleviate the distressing memories and associated symptoms. The therapy uses an eight-phase approach that includes having the patient recall distressing images while receiving one of several types of bilateral sensory input, such as side-to-side eye movements. EMDR was originally developed to treat adults with PTSD; however, it is also used to treat other conditions and children.

Signs and Symptoms of PTSD

Most people have stress reactions following a trauma but they get better over time. Memories of a traumatic event can come back at any time. You may feel the same fear and distress that you did when the event took place. Seek help if the symptoms:

  • Last longer than three months
  • Cause you a good deal of anxiety or stress
  • Disrupt your work or home life
  • Make sleeping difficult
  • Make it hard to fully concentrating.

Who may benefit from EMDR?

People who experience:

  • Flashbacks or nightmares
  • Getting triggered by seemingly unrelated events such as news reports, seeing an accident, or hearing a car backfire
  • Difficulty connecting with friends and family
  • Loss of memory about parts of the traumatic event or an inability to talk about them
  • A belief that the world is very dangerous and no one can be trusted
  • Desire to avoid talking about the event
  • Feeling jittery, always alert and on the lookout for danger
  • Strong anger or irritability that seems in excess of the current situation
  • A stronger than usual startle response