Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)

Addiction is often associated with trauma disorders.

According to the PTSD Alliance, 50% of people who suffer from PTSD abuse alcohol. They’re twice as likely to develop nicotine dependency and three times as likely to abuse drugs than people without PTSD. Some estimates show that one in 11 people will be diagnosed with PTSD.

Most people have experienced or will experience trauma at some point during their lifetime. However, people who suffer from a trauma disorder usually need to get professional treatment, particularly if substance abuse is involved. EMDR therapy is one of the most popular and effective treatments for trauma disorders.

What is EMDR?

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a therapy technique that aims to help people overcome emotional distress that stems from traumatic or disturbing experiences. It’s widely used to treat people with PTSD and other trauma disorders but can also be effective for other psychological issues, including eating disorders, addiction, and anxiety.
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How does EMDR Work?

EMDR is a unique, non-traditional clinical treatment.

In an EMDR session, the therapist moves their fingers back and forth in front of the client’s face and asks them to follow the movements with their eyes. Simultaneously, the therapist asks the client to recall a traumatic event, which triggers the emotional and physical sensations associated with the experience.

While the therapist continues to move their fingers, they ask the client to begin thinking about more positive memories that evoke happiness, relaxation, or joyous emotions. The therapist may also instruct the client to speak self-affirmations about how they want to feel. Over time, the client lets go of the traumatic memory and replaces the negative thoughts with more positive ones while also becoming desensitized to triggering memories.

According to Francine Shapiro, the founder of EMDR, trauma lingers when the information processing system in the brain fails. It causes the brain to store the traumatic memory with the original emotions and sensations that were present at the time of the event. That’s why trauma can trigger mental and physical responses.

EMDR is effective because it stimulates the brain bilaterally and bypasses the region of the brain where trauma gets stuck and disrupts communication. It stimulates the left side and the right side of the brain at the same time which allows for faster reprocessing. EMDR moves trauma from the emotional mind to the logical mind where it can be processed more easily.

On average, an EMDR session lasts 90 minutes and multiple treatment sessions are needed to see improvement. However, EMDR is considered to be a short-term therapy. After several sessions, most clients maintain their results for many months. At some point, most clients require follow-up EMDR treatment to continue their progress.

EMDR is used in conjunction with a broader treatment plan consisting of talk therapy and medication. In some cases, people receive individual psychotherapy and EMDR from the same professional. The treatment is shown to be safe and has few side effects. Some clients report heightened awareness during the session, which may last for several hours after treatment.
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If you are considering treatment for yourself or a loved one, call us today.

History of EMDR

EMDR was first developed in 1983 by Francine Shapiro. She noticed that eye movements seemed to eliminate the negative emotions associated with her own traumatic memories.

Shapiro hypothesized that eye movements had a desensitizing effect when coupled with cognitive reflection.

To test her experimental treatment, Shapiro conducted a controlled study to determine its effectiveness. She took 22 people who had experienced trauma and assigned them to a treatment approach. Half the people received EMDR and the other half received the same treatment but with images and written descriptions instead of eye movements.

At the conclusion of the experiment, the participants who received EMDR has significantly less distress and increased rates of positivity. The mental changes were also more dramatic in people who received EMDR compared to the people in the image condition group.

In 1995, EMDR was officially recognized as a viable and proven treatment for PTSD and other trauma disorders. Since then, hundreds of EMDR case studies and controlled outcome studies have been published, and several textbooks have been written about the approach.

In addition to physical cravings, someone with an addiction issue will also spend a tremendous amount of time thinking about their drug of choice. These thoughts become a compulsion and impossible to control, which leads to drug-seeking behavior that can sometimes be criminal.

Feelings of depression, sadness, anxiety, despair, and the like are often at the root of substance abuse. The substance might temporarily mask these feelings, but they return once the high wears off, creating a vicious circle of drug abuse.

Taking a substance will temporarily stop the cravings and compulsion for it, but soon the same feelings return. In time, it takes more and more of the same substance to achieve the same effect it once had.

People addicted to drugs and alcohol may feel like they have no control over their drug use. Refraining from using or stopping seems to be an impossibility for them. The substance controls them, rather than the other way around.

Someone addicted to drugs or alcohol will continue to seek them out even if their addiction has made them lose friends, family, spouses, and jobs. Drug-seeking behavior can even lead to diseases such as hepatitis and HIV/AIDS.

Can EMDR Cure Trauma?

No, EMDR cannot cure PTSD or trauma disorders. There is currently no cure for any mental health disease.

Treatments like EMDR are used to help people manage their symptoms and identify the root cause of their disorder. With consistent therapy, many people are able to eliminate the majority of their symptoms, but relapse is always a possibility.

At the beginning of EMDR treatment, the therapist will set expectations. They will explain what type of improvement and how much improvement the client should expect to see. The therapist will also gauge how many treatment sessions will be necessary in order for the client to get results. This will be different for every person.

What is EMDR for Addiction?

EMDR has been shown to be an effective treatment for addiction and substance abuse.

Many cases of addiction are tied to trauma or disturbing experiences. Data shows that as many as 45% of people with a substance abuse disorder also have PTSD. In addiction recovery, healing that trauma is one of the biggest priorities.

Additionally, EMDR can be used to address negative memories associated with substance abuse, such as overdosing. Those memories can make it difficult to move forward with recovery and may cause the person to self-medicate. In an EMDR session, the therapist walks through those memories with the client and helps them shift their perspective.

Keep in mind that EMDR will only help recovering addicts who are suffering from trauma. It won’t improve symptoms of depression, anxiety, OCD, or other behavioral disorders that may be co-occurring with substance abuse. Individuals who struggle with multiple mental health disorders should continue individual therapy or seek specialized treatments for those conditions.

If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction, call us at (888) 855-6877 to speak with a recovery advisor today.

In addition to physical cravings, someone with an addiction issue will also spend a tremendous amount of time thinking about their drug of choice. These thoughts become a compulsion and impossible to control, which leads to drug-seeking behavior that can sometimes be criminal.

Feelings of depression, sadness, anxiety, despair, and the like are often at the root of substance abuse. The substance might temporarily mask these feelings, but they return once the high wears off, creating a vicious circle of drug abuse.

Taking a substance will temporarily stop the cravings and compulsion for it, but soon the same feelings return. In time, it takes more and more of the same substance to achieve the same effect it once had.

People addicted to drugs and alcohol may feel like they have no control over their drug use. Refraining from using or stopping seems to be an impossibility for them. The substance controls them, rather than the other way around.

Someone addicted to drugs or alcohol will continue to seek them out even if their addiction has made them lose friends, family, spouses, and jobs. Drug-seeking behavior can even lead to diseases such as hepatitis and HIV/AIDS.

If you or a loved one are suffering from alcohol or drug addiction, we’re here to help. Contact us today and speak with one of our trusted recovery advisors.

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