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My EMDR Therapist Helped Decrease My Anxiety

2015, August 26 Greg Weber

I've been seeing a therapist for a while to help decrease my anxiety. We generally just talk, but, today, we tried something new. Well, it was new for me, anyway. He's been using eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy for a number of years with his other clients. We did a session today using EMDR, and my therapist really helped me decrease my anxiety levels.

What is Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy?

[caption id="attachment_3269" align="alignright" width="260"]My therapist used EMDR to successfully decrease my anxiety. Find out more about how EMDR therapy decreases anxiety, and whether it could work for you. EMDR hand tappers. Image courtesy of CollenWest.com.[/caption]

EMDR is a type of therapy designed to reduce or eliminate the pain caused by traumatic experiences. It was developed to treat the signs and symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). PTSD is a type of disorder where sufferers are plagued by intrusive thoughts and/or feelings concerning traumatic events from the past. People can develop PTSD after experiencing things like combat, natural disasters (hurricanes, for example), childhood abuse, sexual assault, and domestic violence. By the way, the examples I just gave are by no means comprehensive. People get PTSD for lots of other reasons, too.

How Does a Therapist Use EMDR?

EMDR combines talk therapy, mindfulness to calm anxiety, and alternating stimulation of the right and left sides of the brain. This is accomplished via tracking the movement of the therapist's hand with the eyes from side to side. This is the "eye movement" part of EMDR, although the right/left stimulus can also be done using "tappers," which are small devices which gently vibrate against the palms of the hands. Some EMDR therapists use headphones with a tone that alternates from ear to ear.

There are, of course, variations in how different therapists conduct an EMDR session. Below is a brief transcript of the session my therapist did with me to help reduce my anxiety:

Therapist: Can you define the current issue that's causing you anxiety?

Me: I'm afraid I'm always going to be alone. I will die alone.

Therapist: Do you have a visual image about this issue?

Me: Yes. I see myself as an old man on my deathbed, lying on a bare mattress in an empty, dirty room with bare walls and a hardwood floor. I'm looking down on this scene as if I'm floating near the ceiling.

Therapist: On a scale of one to 10, with 10 being absolutely true and one being not at all true, how true does the statement "I will always feel alone" feel to you right now?

Me: About an eight.

Therapist: Instead of " I will always be alone," what would you like to believe instead?

Me: That I'm part of something larger than myself. That I'm connected and loved.

Therapist: On a scale of one to seven, with seven being absolutely true and one being not at all true, how true does the statement "I am part of something larger than myself. I am connected and loved" feel to you right now?

Me: About a two.

My therapist then turned on the little hand tapper thingies. I closed my eyes and focused on the anxiety that I would always be alone, and that I would die alone. He encouraged me to notice any thoughts, emotions, images, or sensations that came up while the tappers vibrated gently back and forth in my hands -- left, right, left, right. We did about six "sets" of this work with the tappers. Each set was about two minutes long. In between sets, we talked about what had come up for me during the previous set.

The "trueness" of my feeling that I would always be -- and die -- alone had dropped from an eight to a three by the end of the session. My feeling about belonging and being part of something larger than myself had risen from a two to a seven.

How Does EMDR Help Decrease Anxiety?

It's not known exactly how EMDR helps to decrease anxiety, depression, or PTSD. It's theorized that the back and forth movement of the eyes (or other induced left/right stimuli) helps the brain reprocess painful events in such a way that the person begins to have a new, less "charged" experience of them. EMDR also calms and soothes the body during the recollection of past traumas, which takes some of the edge off them, i.e. desensitization.

Although I'm new to using EMDR, my therapist used it very effectively to reduce my anxiety. EMDR seemed to somehow get at the painful emotions beneath my anxious thoughts in a way that just talking about them never has before. My therapist and I plan to keep using EMDR to decrease my anxieties and the hidden traumas that drive them.

Please share your own experiences with EMDR therapy in the comments. I'd love to hear from you.

You can find Greg on his website, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, and Facebook.

APA Reference
Weber, G. (2015, August 26). My EMDR Therapist Helped Decrease My Anxiety, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, May 19 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/treatinganxiety/2015/08/my-emdr-therapist-helped-decrease-my-anxiety



Author: Greg Weber

Judy Smith
says:
March, 31 2019 at 2:28 pm
Hi my name is Judy and I am a child of a narcissistic mother. My struggle right now is social anxiety. I have not been out of the house very much at all. I do go to my therapist who specializes in trauma therapy. Since I have started going there things have gotten worse in a lot of ways. I have had social anxiety to where I hardly ever leave the house I will go to my daughter's house sometimes when she invites me over on the weekend but even there, I feel rather uncomfortable and leave as quickly as I can without being too conspicuous.

I feel so alone and so sad and depressed and want people in my life but I'm afraid of people. I had to stay with my daughter's children while she was in the hospital and had a blowout with her because she didn't like the way I reacted when she told me what was wrong with her. My reaction was "oh no honey I am so sorry oh my goodness." At that she stopped me, and said Mom I can only talk to people that are positive right now. It is not about you it is about me!
I was horrified! I felt so bad so guilty so humiliated. I just shut up and let her talk and I don't know if I started crying when I was on the phone with her or if I just started crying afterwards, but I just felt horrible I didn't know what to do I really wanted just to leave her place and go home and lock myself in the bedroom. I didn't know how to react to such a response. I felt like I disgusted my daughter and I was so ashamed of myself for reacting the way I did, but when I went into therapy my therapist said that I was just being empathetic and that my daughter was being abusive.

All I know is after that I felt so paranoid, so ashamed of who I was and how I acted and wondering if if I really was selfish? Or what? I still can't get over the disrespect I felt when my daughter lashed out with me like that. I know that she was in the hospital and in pain and in shock but I still cannot believe how she acted to me and I can't get over it I just can't stop my mind. I just feel like I just love my life stay over I don't know how to act I don't know how to sync I don't know if I'm right or wrong all I know is every day it's a battle just to get out of bed and basically that's all I do is I get out of bed I haven't change clothes very rarely take a bath brush my teeth I take care of my dog and I'm kind to my husbands who is not working because he's got some serious health issues. So I just stay home with my husband and my dog and I think about my friends I've got three friends that I just really love, but I even am having trouble getting out to see them are evening to talk to them on the phone I don't know what to think I just go from therapy session to therapy session and hopes that something will help me to come out of this and to be able to live a fairly normal life and stop despising and hating myself. Anything that you might have to say to help me in this situation would be much appreciated.
D
says:
January, 4 2019 at 3:49 pm
Hi Greg,
I am wondering if you had more recent updates about how further work with your therapist using EMDR worked for you. I am going to be using EMDR with my therapist in a week and would be grateful for any response.
Thanks!

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