EMDR may or may not work for anxiety. EMDR was accidentally discovered by Francine Shapiro. She noticed one day while out walking that thoughts that were causing her mild anxiety suddenly disappeared. She tried to work out why and soon narrowed it down to the fact that she had flicked her eyes around while the thoughts were on her mind. She tried it again with another anxious thought and realized she had stumbled on a technique that could quickly change people. EMDR was born. It has been put to good use with Vietnam Veterans and sufferers of other major Traumas such as rape victims. Although EMDR can be practiced on one’s self this is only recommended after several sessions with a professional, which can be expensive. There are several books which explain the process.
EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. It was invented by Francine Shapiro in 1987. Since then EMDR Therapy has come along way and is now used regularly for the treatment of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). More controversially it used to treat depression, anxiety, and phobias. I say controversially because the scientific proof of its efficacy is as ever lacking and therapists tend to base their claims on anecdotal evidence. That doesn’t mean that it doesn’t work.
The fact that EMDR is successful for PTSD suggests that it would also be useful for any condition that is caused by a traumatic memory or the failure to correctly process a traumatic memory.
What is EMDR?
EMDR works, it is thought, by activating both the right and left sides of the brain while recalling an traumatic event. This allows the memory to be reprocessed and the emotion attached to it to be released. The activation of the left and right sides of the brain is normally achieved through eye movement: the practitioner or therapist will instruct you to hold your head still and track your eyes from left to right and back, up and down or diagonally.
Although it is called EYE MOVEMENT desensitization and reprocessing eye movements are not essential and when a patient for some reason can not make eye movements sound or touch stimulation can be used. Occasionally specialist EMDR equipment is used to direct the patients eyes, play noises or stimulate touch. Also software has been made available, but home use without the supervision of a trained therapist or practitioner is not recommended.
EMDR seems simple, but in fact it is a form of psychotherapy and can cause repressed issues to surface, that is why a practitioner is needed, particularly when dealing with sever trauma. Self EMDR is not recommended! (But people have done it! Books on EMDR here.)
There are various EMDR organisations and societies, and practitioners can be found in the UK, France, Spain, and Australia with little problem. For the EMDR institute click here. Make sure a therapist you chose has had sufficient training. Some courses are quick, may be run by cowboys, and should be avoided. There isn’t much information on EMDR on the WWW.
What about Anxiety, Phobias, Panic Attacks and Depression with EMDR
You are a bit unlikely to get this on your health insurance or the UK NHS (National Health Service), but if you can find a good practitioner why not give it a go. Expect to pay £35-50 ($50-75) for a session and the number of sessions needed may be one to many. There definitely have been positive results and I suspect that it will become more and more recognised as time goes on.
There may well be times however when the memories that caused the phobia/anxiety/depression have been processed and what is left over is learnt behaviour. In such cases EMDR is unlikely to help much.