What is Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)?
When a person is involved in a distressing event, they may feel overwhelmed and their brain may be unable to process the information like a normal memory. The distressing memory seems to become frozen on a neurological level. Recall of the memory becomes traumatic with the affected person experiencing ‘flash-backs’ as the event seems to be happening all over again, often involving vivid recall involving all the senses including sound, taste and smell. These types of post-traumatic events are often associated with combat stress but can arise from any other type of trauma that hasn’t been processed properly by the brain, for example witnessing violence, being involved in a car accident or suffering sexual or physical abuse.
The alternating left-right stimulation of the brain with eye movements, sounds or taps during EMDR, seems to stimulate the frozen or blocked information processing system allowing the memories to be reprocessed and filed away correctly.
When treated with EMDR the distressing memories seem to lose their intensity, so that the memories seem more like ‘ordinary’ memories and can be filed away in the appropriate part of the brain. The effect is believed to be similar to that which occurs naturally during REM sleep (Rapid Eye Movement) when your eyes rapidly move from side to side. EMDR helps reduce the distress of all the different kinds of memories, whether it was what you saw, heard, smelt, tasted, felt or thought.