Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a therapy technique designed for working with distressing or traumatic memories. The theory behind EMDR is that many psychological difficulties are the result of distressing life experiences which have not been stored in memory properly and are said to be unprocessed or blocked, and because they can be easily triggered they replay and cause distress over and again. These traumatic memories may need some help to become processed, and EMDR is one way to do this.
A psychological trauma can occur when you have experienced either a single event or long lasting or repeated events that are so overwhelming it affects your ability to cope or make sense of what happened. Examples of traumatic events include serious incidents (such as an assault or road traffic collision), loss and grief, being told you have a life threatening or terminal illness, physical, emotional or sexual abuse, neglect, natural or man-made disasters, being taken hostage, and bullying. Everyone has different ways of responding to events. What one individual finds traumatic another person may not find distressing.
Typical reactions that you may feel after a traumatic event include:
- Constantly thinking about the event.
- Images of the events keep coming into your mind.
- Difficulty sleeping and/or nightmares.
- Changes in how you feel emotionally (such as feeling frightened, sad, anxious, angry).
- Avoiding certain situations that remind you of the event.
- Feeling numb, stunned, shocked or dazed and have difficulties connecting with life around you.
- Denial that the event actually happened.
It is very common to experience distress following a traumatic event. In most cases, the emotional reactions get better over the days and weeks that follow a trauma. You may feel a wide range of emotions, including anger, guilt, fear, helplessness, sadness, shame or embarrassment.
However, in some cases the effects of a trauma can be longer lasting and continue for months and even years after the event. Receiving the appropriate type of support can help you come to terms with the traumatic experience so that it does not continue to affect you for the rest of your life.