Toby Barron Therapy

Toby Barron Therapy

EMDR for Anxiety: How Does It Help?

woman with Anxiety

Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the United States, affecting 40 million adults. Anxiety is a natural human emotion that everyone experiences at some point in their lives. It is a feeling of fear or worry in response to a perceived threat. While some anxiety is normal and can even be helpful, when it becomes excessive, it can interfere with daily life.

There are many different forms of anxiety disorders, each with its own set of symptoms, but one of the most common, and most treatable, is Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). People with GAD tend to worry excessively about everyday things like work, money, health, and family. As a result, they often feel tense, irritable, and have difficulty sleeping.

Is anxiety treatable?

Fortunately, there are effective treatments for anxiety disorders, including cognitive-behavioral therapy and medication. But while these treatments can be very helpful, they don’t work for everyone.

For some people, an alternative treatment called EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) may be more effective. EMDR is a type of therapy that uses bilateral stimulation, usually in the form of eye movements, to help people process and heal from traumatic experiences. It is a relatively new therapy, but there is a growing body of research showing that it can be effective in treating anxiety.

One study found that the EMDR technique was more effective than cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) in reducing anxiety symptoms and improving the quality of life for people with generalized anxiety disorder. EMDR may be especially helpful for people who have trouble talking about their anxieties or who have experienced a traumatic event.

Considering therapy and not sure where to start?

I’d love to help. I provide therapy and counseling services that can help you build a healthier, more authentic life.

Toby Baron Logo

What does the research say about EMDR and anxiety?

There is a great deal of research that has been conducted on EMDR, and the vast majority of it is positive. A review of the research found that EMDR is an effective treatment for anxiety disorders, including post-traumatic stress disorder, panic disorder, and phobias (Lee & Cuijpers, 2013). A more recent review found that EMDR is an effective treatment for both acute and chronic anxiety (Duru & Lendvai, 2016).

EMDR has been found to be particularly helpful in treating trauma-related anxiety. One study found that EMDR was more effective than exposure therapy in reducing symptoms of PTSD (Schubert et al., 2014). Another study found that EMDR was as effective as cognitive behavioral therapy in treating PTSD (Shapiro et al., 2001).

EMDR may also be helpful in treating other types of anxiety disorders. For example, one study found that EMDR was better than group therapy for treating social phobias (Craske et al., 2009). Another study found that EMDR was as effective as cognitive behavioral therapy in treating panic disorder and agoraphobia (Lee & Cuijpers, 2013).

EMDR for anxiety

How does EMDR work to help reduce anxiety?

EMDR is thought to work by helping to process and release the emotions and disturbing memories that are causing anxiety. The therapist will guide the client through a series of eye movements, while the client focuses on a particular memory or thought they associate with negative emotions. This is thought to help the brain process information in a different way, which can lead to a reduction in anxiety.

The basic principles behind EMDR focus on helping the individual process and make sense of the painful memories and experiences that are causing them distress. This type of psychotherapy can help reduce the intensity of the negative belief and emotions associated with the disturbing event and help the individual see it in a new light.

A study by the Netherlands Study of Depression and Anxiety found that EMDR was more effective in reducing anxiety symptoms than cognitive therapy. In another study, it was found that 84% of participants who received EMDR reported a decrease in their anxiety levels, compared to only 50% of those who received cognitive therapy. These statistics indicate that EMDR is an effective treatment for reducing anxiety.

EMDR has been used to treat PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) and clients trying to overcome distressing events but can also be helpful for other types of anxiety disorders such as panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and social anxiety disorder.

woman with social anxiety

What are the benefits of EMDR for anxiety?

EMDR for anxiety has been found to be a highly effective treatment option with long-lasting results. Studies have shown that EMDR can help reduce anxiety symptoms and improve functioning in those with anxiety disorders.

The EMDR approach is thought to work by helping to desensitize the individual to the anxiety-inducing memories and emotions that are causing distress. This process of desensitization allows the individual to eventually face and process these memories, emotions, and adverse life experiences in a healthier way.

Excessive anxiety can lead to body sensations and physical symptoms such as a racing heart, sweating, and difficulty breathing. It can also cause emotional consequences such as irritability, restlessness, and difficulty concentrating. When anxiety is severe, it can lead to a panic attack.

Panic attacks are sudden periods of intense fear or anxiety associated with physical symptoms such as a pounding heart, chest pain, and shortness of breath. Panic attacks can also cause emotional symptoms such as fear of dying, feelings of losing control, or feeling detached from reality. They can be extremely frightening and lead to avoidance of situations or activities that may trigger them. This can interfere with work, school, and social activities. Panic attacks can also lead to anxiety about having another panic attack, which can become a cycle of fear.

The benefits of EMDR for anxiety are numerous and well-documented:

  • EMDR can help decrease anxiety symptoms
  • EMDR can help you understand and process your anxiety
  • EMDR can help you develop healthy coping mechanisms for anxiety
  • EMDR can help you manage your anxiety on a daily basis
  • EMDR can help you identify and change negative thinking
  • EMDR can help you feel more confident and in control of your anxiety
  • EMDR can help you feel more hopeful about your future and not be afraid of the unknown

How long does EMDR take to work?

While there is no one answer to this question as everyone experiences anxiety differently and therefore responds to different treatments in different ways, EMDR has been found to be an effective treatment for many people suffering from anxiety symptoms.

On average, people tend to see a reduction in their symptoms after just 3-5 sessions of EMDR, with the majority of people seeing a significant improvement after around 12 sessions.

For those who have been struggling with anxiety for a long time, or who have tried other treatments without success, this form of therapy can be a life-changing treatment.

It is important to remember that everyone is different and so while some people may see results very quickly, others may need more time. However, the vast majority of people who try this type of trauma therapy do see a significant reduction in their anxiety symptoms.

Are there any risks associated with EMDR for anxiety?

There is a clear body of evidence showing that EMDR is an effective treatment for anxiety disorders. This therapeutic technique has been shown to be particularly effective for individuals looking to process distressing experiences, but there is also evidence that it can help with other types of anxiety disorders.

However, it’s important to remember that not everyone who undergoes EMDR therapy will experience the same results. Some people will see a significant reduction in their anxiety symptoms, while others may not see any change at all. And while EMDR is generally considered to be a safe and effective treatment, there is always the potential for side effects.

The most common side effect of EMDR is dizziness, which can be caused by rapid eye movements during therapy. Other side effects include headache, fatigue, and increased anxiety. While these side effects are typically mild and short-lived, it is important to talk to your mental health practitioner about any concerns that you have. In very rare cases, some people have experienced severe anxiety during therapy or even a reoccurrence of their anxiety after treatment.

However, a review published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology found that the benefits of EMDR therapy far outweigh any potential risks. The authors of the review explain that EMDR therapy has been found to be effective for post-traumatic stress disorder, phobias, and panic disorders caused by trauma, accidents, or other traumatic memories. It is also used as an adjunct treatment for depression, eating disorders, and substance abuse.