What Conditions Does EMDR Therapy Treat?

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EMDR is a fairly new, nontraditional form of psychotherapy. You might be wondering whether it’s a good fit for you.

EMDR is most commonly used to treat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which often occurs after traumatic experiences. These can include (but aren’t limited to):

  • Military combat
  • Physical assault
  • Sexual assault
  • Car accidents
  • Severe physical injuries

Guidelines for EMDR treatment used for PTSD

The American Psychiatric Association (APA) has stated that EMDR is effective for treating symptoms of acute and chronic PTSD. It can be especially useful for people who have trouble openly discussing the traumatic events they’ve experienced – not uncommon for people who’ve experienced deep, lasting trauma. It can also be an effective aid for people who’ve found traditional talk therapy isn’t producing the results they want and need to live a full, happy life.

The Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Defense jointly issued clinical practice guidelines about EMDR. They strongly recommended EMDR for treating PTSD in military and non-military populations.

This is important because PTSD still has a strong association with combat veterans and the military, but it affects people who’ve never been in the military as well (and the effects can be just as devastating). The DVA and DOD also noted that EMDR has been found in some studies as being as effective as comparable psychological treatments, but less effective in some other studies. But EMDR is more than just a PTSD treatment. 

It can also help people struggling with:

  • Anxiety
  • Panic attacks
  • Phobias, ranging from severe to moderate (like fear of public speaking or trips to the dentist)
  • Chronic illnesses
  • Distressing medical issues or medical trauma
  • Depression
  • Dissociative disorders
  • Eating disorders
  • Grief or loss of a loved one
  • Pain
  • Performance anxiety
  • Personality disorders
  • Sexual or physical assault
  • Past abuse
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Substance abuse and addiction
  • Depression
  • Refugee populations
  • Psychosis
  • Low back pain


How to know if EMDR is right for me?

If you’re wondering whether EMDR is a viable treatment option for your situation, talk to your mental health care provider. They’ll be able to speak to your specific situation and provide recommendations based on your treatment history, specific diagnoses and symptoms, and their expertise.

EMDR is a proven method for addressing traumatic memories in a wide range of patients. It can be a powerful tool to help relieve trauma. However, it’s not a cure-all. It’s important to work with a trusted mental health provider to evaluate your situation and receive the right treatment recommendations to help you live your best life.

If you think EMDR therapy might be right for you, ask your provider about it during your next session. It’s never too early to start healing.

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