Does Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Work?

When living with a mental health condition, each person’s diagnosis differs. As a result, their response to treatment and the best options for them are often unique as well. One newer option for treatment is called Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. Here is what you need to know about this particular recovery process.

What is it?

Generally speaking, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a non-traditional form of therapy that is typically used for individuals living with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) after experiencing an upsetting and disturbing incident. One common symptom of PTSD is the experience of flashbacks, nightmares or troubling memories. In EMDR, stimulating a patient’s rapid eye movements is used to lessen the emotional power of upsetting and traumatic memories. EMDR is also sometimes used to treat anxiety, eating disorders, addiction and panic attacks.

How Does EMDR Work?

It’s not completely understood how EMDR works, but many patients who have tried it have expressed feeling less distressed after a treatment. During a session, a therapist will ask the individual to follow the movement of an object—usually their finger—which they will move back and forth in front of their eyes. At the same time, they will ask the patient to describe a disturbing memory that triggers their PTSD. Eventually, as the session progresses, they will transition to talking about more pleasant memories.

Can EMDR Really Help?

Professional opinions about EMDR are mixed but experiences of participants appear to be positive. According to Francine Shapiro, who developed this technique in the 1980s, research shows that over 84% of individuals who try EMDR after a traumatic incident do not experience symptoms of PTSD after three sessions. Furthermore, while critics may argue the effectiveness of this type treatment, there don’t appear to be any negative side effects from it.

It’s important to keep in mind that, as every person’s experience with PTSD is unique, some techniques for recovery might work better for some individuals. Talk to your doctor if you think EMDR might help you.

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