There is hope for sufferers of post traumatic stress disorder, with the development of EMDR (short for Eye Movement, Desensitisation & Reprocessing) therapy.
What is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder?
Psychologists and other mental health professionals often use a diagnostic manual called the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM).
The current version of the manual (DSM-5, 2013) says that Post Traumatic Stress Disorder occurs as a result of experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event/s, or learning that a traumatic event has occurred to a close family member or friend.
The DSM-5 sees a traumatic event as “exposure to an actual or threatened death, serious injury or sexual violence” (p.271).
Common Symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
There are many different symptoms, which can be grouped according to the following categories:
- ‘Intrusion’ symptoms: include current distressing memories or dreams about the traumatic event/s, and flashbacks (feeling as if the event is happening again).
- Avoidance: Significant avoidance of, or attempts to avoid, people and places, thoughts and feelings associated with the traumatic event.
- Negative Feelings/Thoughts: Thinking and feeling badly about oneself and/or persistent negative emotions (eg horror, anger, guilt).
- Arousal: Changes in ‘arousal’ and ‘reactions’ – for example, irritable behaviour/angry outbursts, exaggerated startle responses and recklessness.
- Dissociation: Another common symptom of post traumatic stress disorder is ‘dissociation’, which is a breakdown in the usual ways that people tend to associate with themselves and the world around them. This could include feeling detached from oneself, as if one is an outside observer and/or feeling detached from the world, as if the surroundings are not real/dreamlike.
EMDR Treatment for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
EMDR therapy has been shown to be effective in approximately thirty randomised controlled trials (http://www.emdrahap.org.content/what-is-emdr/research-findings). These trials are carefully controlled so that the findings can be relied on with confidence.
EMDR treatment is specifically designed for working with distressing memories and is recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO, 2013) for the treatment of post traumatic stress disorder in adults and children. To name but a few, EMDR therapy is also endorsed by:
- Phoenix (The Australian Centre for Posttraumatic Mental Health);
- The National Health and Medical Research Council;
- The Australian Psychological Society;
- UK National Guidelines for Clinical Excellence (NICE);
- The American Psychological Association.
Why EMDR for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder?
CBT (cognitive behaviour therapy) with a trauma focus is also recommended by the WHO (2013) and is therefore another treatment option for post traumatic stress disorder; it involves the use of graduated exposure to the traumatic event/s to promote recovery.
EMDR on the other hand, does not require a detailed description of the event, direct challenging of beliefs, extended exposure or out-of-session homework. This makes it an ideal treatment option if you are feeling distressed by an event in your past, and are reluctant to revisit it as part of therapy.
If you would like to find out more about EMDR, please contact EMDRAA (EMDR Association of Australia, which set the standards for EMDR training in Australia).
Alternatively, you may like to book a consultation with a psychologist with training and experience in EMDR treatment (such as myself), to find out if you have post traumatic stress disorder, and whether EMDR can help you.
Author: Sarah Miller, B Sc Hons (Psych), M Sc, (Forensic Psych).
Brisbane Psychologist Sarah Miller has a special interest in trauma therapy, and is currently investigating the gender differences in trauma and harmful behaviours as part of her PhD. She is experienced in utilising a number of therapies – including EMDR – which are backed up by strong scientific support.
You can book Brisbane Psychologist Sarah Miller online, or call Vision Psychology Mt Gravatt on (07) 3088 5422.
- Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5)