What Is EMDR Therapy?

There are many different therapies involved in psychiatric and psychological care. For many that struggle with different types of anxiety, mental health issues, and even insomnia that is stress/anxiety-induced, EMDR or eye movement desensitization and reprocessing, can be a huge tool to help deal with sleep-related issues.

I say this because I have been actively participating in EMDR over the last year and it has impacted me in ways that I have been able to not only reprocess my traumas but allow me to have better sleep hygiene and have less of an effect on my personal struggle with insomnia.

What is EMDR?

Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy is an "extensively researched, effective psychotherapy method proven to help people recover from trauma and other distressing life experiences, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, depression, and panic disorders."1 This can also include sleep disruption, anxiety-induced insomnia, and past traumas that are finding ways to impact your sleep and REM cycles.

How does EMDR work?

EMDR is a type of therapy that may walk you through past traumas or current anxieties. It involves the individual’s attention to them with the help of their therapist using guides or tools such as taps, rapid eye movements, or even auditory tones.2 In my time in EMDR, because of my type of migraine and the preference of my certified therapist, we use what looks like a short jump rope with ends that vibrate, instead of eye movement and tapping that others might use.

Patients are guided through past traumas in a safe, quiet environment with their certified and trained EMDR specialists who help them reprocess unpleasant situations and past trauma. Many people enter this type of therapy for PTSD.

Who guides the EMDR sessions?

Through a certified EMDR therapist, you are guided through different scenarios that may have involved trauma or situations that have caused anxiety or stress, to help manage and find different coping skills when you are confronted with these issues in the future.

In my personal experience and the way my therapist explained it to me, each session is closed in a way so that the patient is able to walk away from that room and not feel re-violated or under more duress. But, with EMDR, I am warned when we go through my traumatic experiences, I may walk away and be affected that day and into the week.

This is the difficult part of the therapy for me, but I also know that for me, I have to relive certain situations to remind myself that in the present I am safe. I am no longer in those situations and I can begin to cope through different approaches when something stirs me and I am shaken and reminded of certain events.

Who might find EMDR helpful?

Unpleasant, over-stimulating events that may have or currently involve trauma clearly have the capability of presenting major issues in preventing someone from falling asleep, due to the anxiety it may cause the individual and inability to settle down and release/decompress from the stressors or triggers that are being presented in their lives that are causing them this distress.3

Specifically and personally for me, I entered EMDR therapy when cognitive behavioral therapy wasn’t cutting it. I was very actively having flashbacks and entering episodes of PTSD I could not pull myself out of, without the help of medical professionals and entering inpatient psychiatric care.

Each person's experience will be different

Everyone’s experience with PSTD and insomnia should not be treated the same, as all traumas and anxieties are not the same. My experiences in EMDR are not equal to everyone else’s experiences with them.

In addition to medical treatments such as sleep aids, anti-anxiety medications, sedatives, and antidepressants, through EMDR, we are also able to help treat my disturbances of sleep, one of my main symptoms of my PTSD. So this a tool that is used just like the medications I’ve mentioned above, in addition to different types of therapies.4

Stay tuned for Part 2 in how my personal experiences in delving into EMDR have helped me change my lifestyle, my short and long-term goals, and how I am able to better cope with my traumas.

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