How EMDR Therapy Can Help Alleviate Anxiety Symptoms

Experts agree that up to 20% of American adults suffer from anxiety. Anxiety can steal your quality of life and contribute to other debilitating conditions, including insomnia and depression. EMDR, or eye movement desensitization and reprocessing can help you overcome some of the underlying beliefs and thought processes that may be contributing to your anxiety.


How Does EMDR Work?

During an EMDR session, you will be directed to think back on a traumatic event from your past. This may be an accident, an attack, or an emotionally wrenching experience. While you are revisiting this memory, your therapist will draw your attention to a new physical experience.


Functionally, EMDR changes how the memory is stored back in the brain. This new “packing away” of a memory that used to fill you with dread, horror or grief, will lessen the intensity of the memory.


Your therapist will also work with you on underlying beliefs that may be adding to the intensity of the memory. For example, you may have suffered a physical attack. If you were attacked after dark or in an unfamiliar place, you may have an underlying belief that you “deserved” the event. Your therapist can help you uncouple that belief from the fear you experienced during the attack. You can then replace the concept that you “deserved” the abuse with the idea that you deserve safety.


EMDR Goes Deep

It can be tempting to think that EMDR is all about distraction. However, a skilled EMDR therapist can do much more than distract you from your traumatic event. Your feelings about the event and your part in it will be tightly wrapped up in the fear or distress connected to your memory.


It is critical that you open up to your therapist about your underlying beliefs. If you have a history of striving to always be perfect, you may have a great deal of anxiety about a car wreck, even if you weren’t at fault. While your therapist helps you deal with the anxiety of the wreck, they can also help you overcome perfectionist tendencies that don’t serve you.


What are the Steps of EMDR Therapy?

EMDR takes time and multiple sessions. Your therapist will need to

  • take your history
  • prepare you for the trauma of revisiting upsetting memories
  • assess your current level of anxiety
  • desensitize you to those memories
  • install new base concepts
  • help you scan your body to confirm that anxious thoughts are no longer causing physical symptoms
  • assist you in finding closure
  • re-evaluate your total treatment effect


Traumatic memories don’t just live in your brain. You may find that, even though the traumatic event occurred years ago, you may suddenly stop breathing when you think of it. Shutting down the physical response in your body is big part of your therapy.


Additionally, you need to revisit your therapist for follow-up after EMDR. Many people find that their dreams are vivid and disturbing after they revisit disturbing memories. A skilled EMDR therapist can help you find closure following your therapeutic sessions.