EMDR, Treatment for Trauma

Who can benefit from EMDR?

Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) develops as a result of a person undergoing a traumatic experience and Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is one of the most effective means of treating it. The symptoms of PTSD cause the patient to experience feelings from the traumatic situation even after they are no longer in it. Many instances can be traumatic, from sexual assault to military combat. Any environment that a person finds shocking or frightening may develop into trauma. In the United States 60% of adults will experience an event that they consider to be traumatic. Not all these people however, will get PTSD as a result.

In the U.S. every year one out of every ten women and 5.2 million people in total battle post traumatic stress disorder. PTSD is a condition caused when trauma makes triggering the body's natural "fight or flight" stress-response too sensitive. The adrenaline triggered created during the event can result in deep neurological patterns that persist long after someone is out of harm's way. As a result, certain stress hormones are released too frequently while other messanger chemicals are not produced enough. Without a healthy level of Cortisol the brain's ability to maintain chemical equilibrium during stressful situations is limited, resulting in a response from the body that is more distressed and longer to resolve than the anxiety experienced if PTSD was not present. The functions of norepinephrine in areas of the brain outside the prefrontal cortex can be limited as a result of the stress PTSD causes. The limited norepinephrine restricts the function of memory such that a person experiencing a flashback may be unable to determine whether their surroundings or the traumatic memory is real.

Patients with PTSD are not the only ones who can benefit from EMDR. Anyone suffering symptoms developed as a result of a traumatic experience should consider undergoing EMDR treatment. The therapeutic process involves eight steps and begins by identifying the situations in a patient's life that trigger their unhealthy emotions, beliefs, and sensations. Trauma can overwhelm the coping mechanisms of the brain and result in memories that become associated with a neural network that is isolated from other pathways. Memories formed this way do not interact with the new patterns of information that the person stores in their mind every day. The practices behind EMDR aims to break up the isolated memories that a patient has related to the trauma and create positive associations with the event. The therapist does this by asking the patient to focus on both the traumatic experience and a positive image while they stimulate different areas of the brain.

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