Toby Barron Therapy

Toby Barron Therapy

Does EMDR Work For OCD?


Do you find yourself constantly fixating and worrying about things that might happen, even though you know they’re unlikely? Do you feel the need to check things over and over again, just to be sure? Do you avoid certain situations or activities because they make you feel intolerably anxious? It might be worth meeting with a qualified mental health professional to see if these could be symptoms of OCD.

OCD, or Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, is a type of anxiety disorder that can cause significant distress and interfere with daily life. OCD is characterized by persistent, intrusive thoughts (obsessions) and repetitive behaviors (compulsions) that the person feels the need to do in order to relieve anxiety.

OCD can manifest in many different ways in adults. For some, it may be as simple as needing everything to be symmetrical or in a certain order. Others may have more complex rituals, such as washing their hands dozens of times a day or repeatedly checking to make sure the doors are locked.

The good news is that obsessive-compulsive disorder is treatable. There are different approaches, and one of them is EMDR. Can it work for you?

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What is OCD?

OCD is a type of anxiety disorder that causes people to have intrusive, unwanted thoughts (obsessions) that make them feel compelled to do certain things (compulsions) over and over again. OCD can be a debilitating condition that interferes with a person’s ability to function at work, school, or home.

Many with OCD will have specific fears. For example, a person who may be afraid of germs will wash their hands repeatedly. It often gets to the point where it’s highly repetitive. Some may even check excessively to see if they’ve shut something off, like a stove (for fear the house may burn down).

EDR Side effects

OCD can manifest in a variety of ways, and the symptoms can vary from person to person. Some common obsessions include:

  • Fear of contamination or germs
  • Excessive concern about order or symmetry
  • Intrusive thoughts about harm happening to oneself or others
  • Intrusive sexual or religious thoughts

Common compulsions include:

  • Excessive hand-washing or cleaning
  • Checking (e.g., doors, appliances)
  • Counting
  • Arranging and rearranging
  • Repeating actions

People with OCD may also experience different levels of anxiety, depression, and difficulty in social and work functioning.

Causes and treatments for OCD

The exact cause of OCD is unknown, but it is thought to involve a combination of genetic and environmental factors. OCD may run in families, but it is not known for sure if this is due to genetic or cultural reasons.

a stressed mind

One of the more conventional treatments for OCD is cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT is a type of psychotherapy that helps people change their negative thinking and behavior patterns. CBT is based on the idea that our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are all connected. So, if we can change our thinking, we can also change our feelings and behaviors.

However, there may be times when the compulsive behaviors are rooted in traumatic memories. People may perform repetitive behavior or tasks in part to bury their feelings of anxiety and distressing memories so they can live more functional lives. This is a common coping mechanism for people dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

One of the newest and most effective treatment options for people suffering from post-traumatic OCD is eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR).

What is EMDR?

EMDR is a form of therapy that uses eye movement and other forms of stimulation to help people process and heal from their trauma. EMDR has been shown to be an effective treatment for PTSD, and it is also used to help people heal from other types of trauma, such as sexual abuse, domestic violence, and the effects of natural disasters.

EMDR is thought to work by stimulating the brain’s natural healing process. When we experience a traumatic event, our brain tries to protect us by numbing the emotional response. This can lead to problems later on, as the emotional response is often delayed and can be very overwhelming. EMDR is thought to help the brain process the emotional response in a healthier way.

This treatment approach involves moving your eyes in a specific way as you process any memories stemming from a traumatic event. This treatment protocol was designed to help reduce the distress level caused by the traumatic event.

EMDR is often a successful treatment for people looking for a different approach than talk therapy. Part of the process involves focusing on the thoughts, behaviors, and emotions that have stemmed from the traumatic experience. 

person with OCD cleaning

How can EMDR help someone with OCD?

EMDR therapy allows you to access fears or memories stored in the brain. It can bring to the surface feelings experienced during a distressing situation and trigger your body to react in a certain way. This allows you to become aware of the connection between your behaviors and emotions and open the road to healing. EMDR allows you to access tools that can help you manage your uncontrolled reactions and turn them into responses.

People suffering from OCD associated with PTSD can benefit from EMDR. EMDR has been shown to be an effective treatment for OCD, reducing symptoms in as many as 80% of people who undergo this form of therapy. It is thought to work by helping you to process and make sense of your trauma, which may help reduce your anxiety and OCD symptoms.

EMDR can help people with OCD to identify and challenge the thoughts and beliefs that contribute to their OCD. For many people with OCD, their disorder is fueled by negative, distorted, and irrational thoughts. EMDR can help them identify these thoughts and challenge them. This can reduce the power of their compulsive symptoms and make them more manageable.


Furthermore, this form of therapy can help people develop a more positive and realistic view of themselves and their lives. Many people with OCD see themselves in a negative light. They may feel worthless, helpless, and hopeless. EMDR can help them see themselves in a more positive light and develop a more realistic view of their lives.

EMDR can help people with OCD learn new coping skills and strategies to deal with their mental health condition. Many people with OCD become so focused on their disorder that they forget how to live their lives. They may avoid activities that they used to enjoy, or they may become isolated and withdrawn. This treatment approach can help them reconnect with their lives and to find new ways to enjoy themselves.

There are eight phases of treatment that will go beyond the usual eye movement routine. The length of EMDR therapy varies depending on the individual and the severity of the disorder being treated. Generally, EMDR therapy is shorter than traditional forms of psychotherapy, such as behavioral treatments. The average length of EMDR therapy is between 8 and 12 individual sessions. However, some people may need more or fewer sessions, depending on their individual needs.