A young man with problems at a one-on-one meeting with a female therapist. Belgrade, Serbia
Published On: March 22, 2023|Categories: Treatment|

Have you ever noticed how you sometimes forget significant details about extreme, distressing or traumatic events? 

Sometimes we can get “stuck” in overwhelmed by these experiences, and that can make it feel as if they’re happening over and over again, in the present. 

Depending on the nature of the event(s), reliving them can lead to exacerbated symptoms of mental illness and other trauma-rooted disorders we might have developed. One of the ways we can begin to heal from these images, thoughts, emotions and memories is through EMDR therapy.

In this article, we’re going to take a closer look at EMDR, how it works, what it’s used for, as well as the different side effects that can sometimes occur as a result of this treatment.

What is EMDR?

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a psychotherapy treatment that aims to help people recover from a traumatic event, primarily through the use of bilateral stimulation. 

Bilateral stimulation is a technique that stimulates both sides of the brain simultaneously. This can be done through rapid eye movements, auditory cues, hand taps and other activities that alternate between using the left and right sides of the body. 

The reasoning behind this practice lies in the fact that it can activate both the emotional and logical sides of the brain, allowing for a more balanced and sustainable healing from emotions and memories. Bilateral stimulation has also been shown to help alleviate feelings of distress and promote calmness.

In EMDR therapy, bilateral stimulation is used to help a person process their traumatic memories in a healthy, productive and sustainable way.

How does EMDR work?

The specific mechanisms behind EMDR aren’t fully understood yet, but there are several theories around it.

One theory is that neurological stimulation helps to activate the brain’s natural processing abilities, while another theory claims that this practice predominantly helps to trigger a release of anxiety and stress through nervous system regulation.

In an EMDR session, you can typically expect the therapist to guide you through a series of bilateral stimulation exercises and activities to begin processing the trauma. You’ll learn how to challenge and reframe your previously held negative beliefs and patterns, as well as identify healthy practices that will help you in the future.

Is EMDR effective?

EMDR has been found to be successful for a variety of reasons, including having a lower dropout rate from participants, being more effective than prolonged exposure therapy and creating more sustainable and positive change in patients’ lives than prescribed medication alone.

EMDR session side effects

EMDR is considered safe in the sense you cannot actually be harmed through this form of treatment (as opposed to a medication, which can potentially have serious side effects).

There are, however, certain side effects people can experience during or after a session.

Some of these effects might include:

  • Vivid dreams or nightmares
  • A temporary increase in emotions
  • Uncomfortable sensations (headaches, nausea, dizziness)
  • Tiredness or fatigue
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Temporary increase in anxiety or depression

These side effects are generally fairly mild, even if more than one is being experienced, and typically resolve themselves within a few days following the EMDR session. If the side effects after your session don’t resolve after a few days or worsen, or you have concerns about your recovery, always reach out to your healthcare provider.

Starting a new treatment is a big step, and it’s important to receive professional guidance along the way to ensure you not only avoid unpleasant side effects but also receive the most benefits.

Speak with an advisor today

High Focus Treatment Centers specializes in offering outpatient mental health and substance use treatment to help you rebuild your best and brightest future. 

We know that seeking help for trauma can be difficult and vulnerable, but our staff is committed to supporting you every step of the way so you receive the highest level of care possible.

To speak with an advisor and learn more about which of our programs is the right fit for you, you can send us a confidential message. Find out more about our High Focus Marietta Treatment Facility where EMDR therapy is currently offered.

Teens in circle holding smart mobile phones - Multicultural young people using cellphones outside - Teenagers addicted to new technology conceptThe Effects of Social Media on Mental Health
Focus on blue eyesLife After Treatment: EMDR Therapy