How EMDR Can Help Treat PTSD And Other Trauma

If you have ever experienced trauma, you know that it can have a significant impact on your life. According to Medical News Today, up to 75% of people in North America have experienced some sort of trauma in their lives, whether it's through bullying, physical or verbal abuse, sexual assault or harassment, car accidents, a breakup, or the death of a friend or family member.

Trauma can take many forms and affects different people in different ways. An event that one person may experience as a significant trauma could affect another person in a completely different way, depending on factors such as their previous experiences with trauma, their resilience and how they handle emotions, and whether or not they are living with other mental health issues (via Medical News Today).

When trauma remains unprocessed and unresolved, this can result in the development of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), per the Mayo Clinic. Symptoms of PTSD can vary but often include feeling as if you are reliving the trauma over and over, experiencing uncontrollable memories of the traumatic event, always having your guard up, self-medicating, disturbing nightmares, distancing yourself from your relationships, feeling numb, or experiencing extreme anger (via the Mayo Clinic).

PTSD and trauma can negatively impact your life but luckily, there are a variety of treatment and therapy options that can help you cope. One popular type of therapy that is particularly helpful in treating trauma is called eye movement desensitization and reprocessing or EMDR.

How EMDR can help trauma

According to MindBodyGreen, EMDR was created in 1987 by psychologist Dr. Francine Shapiro and involves moving your eyes in a back and forth motion while recalling a traumatic memory. This results in helping you to become desensitized to your trauma and the emotions that occur with them (via MindBodyGreen).

The American Psychological Association (APA) explains that PTSD and symptoms of trauma occur because our brains have not been able to successfully process our traumatic memories. This results in that trauma living in our minds and bodies, which is why we may experience intrusive thoughts and emotions about the event, as well as flashbacks if those memories get triggered.

WebMD explains that during an EMDR session, your therapist will have you follow their finger back and forth while helping you bring to mind a traumatic memory and any feelings or sensations that occur with it, such as panic or anger, muscle tension or shaking. As you recall these memories while using your eyes to follow the therapist's finger, this can help your brain to release, process, and detach from your past trauma.