How effective is EMDR in treating PTSD?

Traumatic events can affect one’s ability to cope with daily situations. Anybody can experience a trauma such as violence, sexual assault, loss of a loved one, or natural disaster that make them feel distressed and sad for prolonged periods. While many recover from the trauma with the help of friends and family, there are some who fail to cope with the shocking or dangerous situation and develop a mental condition known as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). 

Most people with PTSD exhibit manifestations like flashbacks, hyper vigilant attitude, depression, suicidal feelings, and other emotional disorders. Health care professionals usually advise traditional therapy to their PTSD patients seeking relief from the anguish and pain they regularly suffer from. But the treatment requires months before it shows any reliable results or effects. 

Making use of EMDR to cure PTSD 

Can rapid, controlled eye movements treat post-traumatic stress disorder? It might sound absurd, but it’s the defining characteristic of Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing therapy or EMDR. Although EMDR was invented in the late 1980s, it has recently grown in popularity, especially for treating post-traumatic stress disorder, a mental health condition that is triggered by experiencing a terrifying event. EMDR requires no medication, nor does it involve participating in hours of talk therapy. Instead, it resembles more of an eye exam. Clinicians direct patients to move their eyes back and forth, often in response to the location of the clinician’s finger, while instructing them to recall the traumatic event. 

Some researchers have claimed that EMDR significantly reduces anxiety, makes disturbing memories less intense, and ultimately improves the patient’s quality of life. Along with PTSD, EMDR could also help treat panic attacks, substance dependence, and anxiety. The therapy is cost-effective, noninvasive, and potentially revolutionary, and there are no negative side effects.

How does EMDR work? 

EMDR puts the patients in a state of trance. The therapy is based on observations of how eye movement can alleviate the intensity of thoughts pent-up in the mind. The treatment process is based on the premise of how basic factors, such as sounds, smells or people, can trigger painful memories. Clinicians using EMDR therapy transform their patients into a subdued state where they can recollect painful memories from their past without becoming tensed. 

The restrained form enables assimilation of disturbing information in a manner that it is psychologically less disturbing. During the EMDR process, doctors ask patients to hold a paddle – shaped like a small, flat stone in the palm of each hand while wearing headphones. PTSD patients listen to beep-like sounds similar to that in a hearing test alternating from ear to ear. In EMDR therapy, the interpretation of the painful events gets translated to an emotional level. 

Post the therapy, many PTSD patients express the experience as lightening as their minds get freed of the fear and darkness that had enveloped their lives and disrupted their thinking process. Most experts recommend EMDR therapy in conjunction with traditional therapeutic interventions to treat conditions like PTSDAdditionally, physicians make use of other methods, including group therapy, talk therapy, inpatient treatment methods, and other options in a bid to aid quick and complete recovery. 

Research substantiating EMDR use for PTSD 

Understandably, there are skeptics. How can eye movements reduce symptoms of any mental disorder, let alone one as debilitating as PTSD? Opponents of EMDR have argued that the benefits patients receive from the therapy are purely based on reliving the traumatic experience in a safe environment. This is the basis of exposure therapy, a treatment in which patients are instructed to remember the triggering event while under the care of a clinician. Research has indicated, however, that EMDR provides patients with something that exposure therapy doesn’t. 

In January 2011, a study published in the Journal of Anxiety Disorders investigated whether or not eye movements during EMDR were superfluous. One group of patients with PTSD received EMDR while another group received all of the components of EMDR without moving their eyes. Patients who moved their eyes in accordance with EMDR reported a significant reduction in distress compared to the control group. They also had decreased levels of physical arousal as measured by sweat sensors on their skin. When asked to describe the effects of EMDR, sure enough, the patients told the researchers that their disturbing memories were less vivid and that they felt less anxious. 

This strange, memory-blurring effect of EMDR is also present in people without PTSD. In another study, participants without any mental illness attempted to memorize a detailed image. After the image was removed from their view, they were instructed to think about the picture as much as possible and comb over every little detail in their mind. One group of participants was directed to rapidly move their eyes back and forth while trying to recall the image. Participants who performed the eye movements during the recollection period performed significantly worse on the image memory quiz than participants who did not move their eyes. Again, it seems as though something about rapid eye movements disrupts the vibrancy of memories. Given such research – and rave reviews from PTSD patients – the American Psychological Association has identified EMDR as a valid treatment for both acute and chronic PTSD. 

Guide to recovery 

Experts cite differing ways to deal with traumatic experiences. Science has been unable to pinpoint at one particular effective method advised as a panacea to all those incidents that can rid the affected of the pain and anguish they wish to get rid of. 

Clinicians associated with Medical Concierge advise a host of therapies that can help patients get rid of their anxious feelings while also advancing help during the rehabilitation process. If you or a loved one is experiencing stress and battling mental health disorders and is looking for a licensed mental health treatment centers, get in touch with us. Call our 24/7 helpline 877 636-0042 and speak to a member of our admissions team. With the help of just a few questions, they can assess your condition and assist your admission to our state-of-the-art mental health treatment center. You can also chat online to a representative for more information on mental health services offered. 

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