Uses of EMDR for Anxiety Reduction

Alex Williams
9 Min Read

Psychological issues can negatively impact a person’s well-being including their body language and movements. Anxiety influences everyday activities and your response to various situations. In this article, we will tell you about the use of EMDR for anxiety reduction. We will also go over the ways EMDR works along with the benefits of EMDR therapy for anxiety. 

1. What is EMDR?

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a type of psychotherapy. It is suggested to those people who have painful memories from their life experiences. It is based on the adaptive information processing model. 

In 1987, Dr. Francine Shapiro, an American psychologist, and educator noticed that moving her eyes back and forth in a certain way helped her in reducing anxiety and the negative effects that she was feeling about a particular situation. This encouraged her to study and research this EMDR for anxiety therapy. She is known as the founder of Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. (See What is a Mood Ring?)

2. What is the Mindfulness Technique?

In this technique of EMDR for anxiety, your therapist will ask you how you feel while talking about painful events. It will help you understand your inner feelings and how these memories are affecting your body. During or when the sessions are complete your therapist may ask you to track the progress you have made regarding the painful feelings. He will train you in mindfulness techniques that will stay with you after therapy. (See Different Types of BPD)

3. What is the Bilateral Stimulation (BLS) Technique?

It is an essential technique in Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), considered the most useful by Shapiro. Similar to hypnosis, in this technique, the therapist will move his hands and your eyes will mirror their movement while you both talk about the distressing memories. As you are focusing on two things, it becomes easier to open up about things that you were holding back. In such a situation, your therapist will focus on your eyes and body response. (Also read 15 Pressure Points To Relieve Body Discomforts)

4. What are Combined Therapies?

Sometimes the intensity of the sensations and experiences may require a combination of other therapies with EMDR. For severe trauma and anxiety issues, your therapist may use Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Rational Emotional Behavioral Therapy (REBT). CBT and REBT are very essential behavioral therapy often used by psychologists to understand the patient. They may use other natural and at-home techniques combined with EMDR. (Also read The 10 Types Of Personality Disorder)

5. How does EMDR Works?

Mindfulness techniques along with Cognitive Therapy approaches help you to recognize how your body experiences anxiety. Your therapist will focus on reducing the intensity of painful memories by directing eye movements using the technique of Bilateral Stimulation (BLS). EMDR therapy has 8 phases which are conducted in 12 sessions. 

  • Phase I: Discuss the history of the patient. In this initial phase, your therapist will get to know you and the experiences that are disrupting your present life. It is based on your treatment planning. The therapist will observe the emotional disturbance and triggering moments you experience while discussing your past.
  • Phase II: Preparing the patient with techniques. During this phase of EMDR for anxiety, your therapist will introduce you to relaxation techniques and coping mechanisms. They will help you in handling moments of deep distress. It is the phase where you develop a trustful relationship with your therapists. (See How to Heal Yourself Emotionally?)
  • Phase III: Assessment and Identification. In this phase, both of you will analyze and identify the memory or part of the memory which needs to be addressed. That includes the body sensations and images related to it and the cognitive effects caused by it. Your therapist will ask you to find a memory, image, or thought that will act as a positive replacement for this memory. 
  • Phase IV: Desensitization. During this phase, your therapist will reduce and modify the sensitivity of your reactions toward the memory. Your therapist will monitor and redirect your eye movements and apply other BLS techniques. This phase continues until your reaction towards the memory becomes moderate. 
  • Phase V: Adding positive thoughts. Once you are able to control your reactions toward those memories, your therapist will guide you to reinforce the good memories. These replacement memories, thoughts, or images will become clearer in your mind and will overshadow the distressful memories.
  • Phase VI: Scanning Body movement. In this phase, your therapist wants you to be sure about your actions in response to those triggering memories. The therapist will observe your body movements meticulously for any physical response or sensations to the past triggers. (See Am I Passive Aggressive?)
  • Phase VII: Final evaluation of techniques. During the sessions, if there were any moments where you lost control and your emotions were heightened, then this is the stage where your therapist will help you recall the techniques taught in phase II. These relocation and grounding techniques will help you in controlling your reactions in the future as well. 
  • Phase VIII: Reevaluating the treatment. This phase is about reevaluating the outcome of your therapy sessions. It involves going over your progress in EMDR for anxiety therapy and how impactful it was for you.

6. What are the Benefits of EMDR Therapy for Anxiety?

For over 30 years EMDR for anxiety therapy has helped people overcome their painful experiences. Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) has many long-lasting psychological benefits for a person. Apart from reducing symptoms of anxiety, the other benefits are,

  • It is effective in combating trauma including childhood trauma and neglect.
  • It helps in overcoming memories of sexual abuse. It helps in recovering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
  • It helps in getting over experiences of life-threatening accidents.
  • It can be used to tackle depression and substance abuse. (See 6 Negative Health Effects of Self Harm and Cutting Habits
  • Improves your opinion about your self-image. Boosts your self-esteem.
  • You will react moderately toward painful experiences. You will learn to deal with similar traumas after the sessions. It will help you control your anxiety issues so they don’t overwhelm you. 

7. Is EMDR for Anxiety Therapy Successful?

  • According to research studies around 84% to 90% of patients with single trauma do not face any symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder after EMDR therapy. This result was observed after only three sessions of 90 minutes each.
  • Another study concluded that almost 77% of multiple trauma patients cease to have PTSD symptoms after an average of 6 sessions of 50 minutes each. In a separate study, it was found that 77% of combat veterans overcame PTSD after completing 12 EMDR therapy sessions. (See A list of incredible scientific discoveries)

You are now well aware of the advantages of EMDR for therapy. It is time to spread awareness about anxiety and other mental disorders and how EMDR works in tackling them. (Also read 90 Mind Blowing Human Body Facts)

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