Psychoanalysis, Psychotherapy and
Marital Therapy Centre

Trauma & EMDR

Trauma & EMDR

What is trauma?

When we experience psychological trauma, we are having a very natural reaction to a highly stressful experience. Of course, we don't all react to events in the same way. Some people come through a stressful situation relatively unscathed, while others may have a prolonged and distressing reaction to the same event. Natural disasters like earthquakes and tsunamis, or harrowing experiences such as sexual harassment and rape can leave all human beings severely traumatised. Even events which on the surface appear slightly less traumatic, such as witnessing a mobbing or a street fight, or being cheated on, can evoke intense emotions with severe and long-lasting effects. Everyone displays stress reactions to traumatic events. Stress reactions can affect our bodies, our brains, our emotions, and our behaviour and are explained in detail below. 

Some people take on leadership roles in the wake of a traumatic event. For example, following the earthquake in Turkey in 1999, many survivors joined search and rescue teams and helped to save people still trapped in the rubble. By contrast, other survivors became highly agitated and went into shock. Although the victims who became natural leaders might have appeared less traumatised, this is probably far from the truth. In both cases, the impact of the trauma is deep and severe. 

What are the stress reactions?

Physiological reactions: nausea, vomiting, fatigue, palpitations, chest pain, dizziness, headache, etc.

Emotional reactions: anxiety, sadness, depression, denial, fear, guilt, panic, frustration, anger, etc.

Neurological reactions: forgetfulness, insomnia, dreaming excessively, nightmares, difficulty understanding directions, not being able to remember aspects of one's past, not being able to solve problems etc.

Behavioural reactions: Social withdrawal, becoming unnaturally energetic, alcohol and substance use, introversion, making accusations, eating disorders, getting frightened easily, etc.

Social reactions: Problems at school, with friends, with spouses, at work etc.

If you are experiencing any of the above reactions more than three months after going through a traumatic event, you should seek professional help. 

What is EMDR?

EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing. It is a psychological treatment method developed by the American psychologist Dr. Francine Shappiro in 1987. 

Our experiences inform our perspective on life, the decisions we make, and our ideas about the world. When we experience trauma, the emotions, thoughts, physiological reactions, and images are stored in our mind as memories. Every time we think about that traumatic experience or encounter a similar one, we feel as if we are reliving the original trauma. For example, people who have lost someone may feel lonely, desperate and victimised. They might feel completely ruled by these emotions even though there are people who support, love, and care about them. The way they perceive daily life and their ability to make decisions may be affected by these feelings. Every time they experience them, they will relive the incident. This vicious cycle may cause them to feel these emotions even more intensely.

The primary purpose of EMDR is to desensitise a person to the effects of a traumatic event they've experienced. It involves stimulating both sides of the brain alternately using eye-movements, sounds or taps, a process which has been shown to reduce the intensity of distressing memories. Desensitising does not mean forgetting. It is not possible to forget or reverse events. However, regardless of how negative the experience was, it is possible to cope with it through desensitisation. Once desensitisation is achieved, the aim is to reduce or eliminate the influence of the stress reactions on the individual's everyday life.

EMDR can be helpful for:

• Anxiety disorders, panic attacks
• Bereavement
• Sexual assault, harassment, rape
• Trauma caused by natural disasters
• Accidents, major surgery
• Substance addiction
• Victims of mobbing
• Issues at work
• Performance anxiety, improving performance
• Migraines, stomach aches, body aches, skin rash, etc.