Healing from Trauma: EMDR Therapy
Trauma can be defined as any experience where an individual endures physical or emotional pain along with feelings of fear or helplessness. Trauma and PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) are commonly associated with incidents such as war, sexual assault, or a life-threatening accident. However, trauma can be caused by other lesser-known life experiences, including childhood neglect or abuse, bullying, or abusive relationships.
Most people have experienced some form of trauma in their lives. Over 70% of U.S. adults have experienced a traumatic event at least once, and over 5% (13 million U.S. adults) have Post-traumatic stress disorder at any given time. Trauma and PTSD are more common than many people realize.
Trauma Signs and Symptoms
For those who are less familiar with trauma and PTSD, symptoms include re-experiencing, avoidance, and hyperarousal symptoms, along with negative changes in cognition and mood:
Re-experiencing symptoms occur when the trauma is continuously re-experienced in a number of ways, such as nightmares, flashbacks, and emotional distress after being exposed to a reminder of the trauma (also known as a “trigger”).
Avoidance symptoms are an avoidance of things related to the trauma, such as avoiding thinking about the trauma or avoiding external things that are reminders of the trauma.
Hyperarousal symptoms are trauma-related responses and reactions. These might include increased irritability, difficulty sleeping or concentrating, hypervigilance, or increased “startle response” (such as jumping after a loud noise).
Negative changes in cognition and mood often present as having an overly negative affect or perception of oneself or the world, difficulty experiencing positive affect, or depressive symptoms such as isolation, loss of interest in activities, or self-blame.
Luckily, a handful of treatments are available to help heal from trauma and provide relief from the intrusive symptoms of PTSD. One of these treatments is EMDR therapy.
EMDR Therapy for Trauma and PTSD Treatment
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy is a structured, evidence-based treatment for trauma and PTSD. While the name sounds complicated and scientific, it is a straightforward, 8-step treatment. EMDR therapy is different from traditional talk therapy in that it allows access to the parts of the brain where the trauma memory is “stuck.”
By using Bilateral Stimulation (back-and-forth stimuli), such as a light bar, vibrational tappers, or sounds, EMDR therapy allows the “stuck” emotional memories to get “unstuck” and processed. In many ways, EMDR treatment helps heal the brain from trauma much like the way that the body heals from physical trauma.
The end of result of successful EMDR therapy is moving the traumatic memories from dysfunctional to functional. EMDR treatment doesn’t block out or take away the memories – it simply allows the memories to lose their emotional charge so that the trauma symptoms no longer have such a strong hold over life.
If you’re curious if EMDR treatment is appropriate for you, feel free to read more about EMDR therapy on the EMDR International Association (EMDRIA) website. If you’re looking for a therapist trained in EMDR, I strongly encourage you to seek an EMDRIA-trained therapist or EMDR-certified therapist, which you can find in the EMDRIA therapist directory.