5 Benefits of EMDR Therapy for Trauma & Addiction

by | Last updated Jan 20, 2023 | Published on Mar 11, 2022 | Addiction Treatment | 0 comments


At least 75 percent of people in substance abuse treatment have a history of trauma. About one-third of the people exposed to trauma eventually develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) therapy manages trauma and addiction. It is an interactive psychotherapy strategy created in the late 1980s to help people recover from symptoms of emotional distress resulting from living through traumatic events. 

What Is EMDR Therapy, And How Does It Work?

EMDR therapy involves reconnecting the traumatized person to the self-thoughts, images, body sensations, and emotions associated with the trauma in a secure and measured way, enabling the brain’s natural healing powers to move toward acceptance.

There are many theories of why EMDR works to rewire the brain to treat PTSD. In most cases, a therapist will recall distressing events and start to notice emotional responses. As the patient focuses on those negative thoughts, the therapist will guide them through specific eye movements, tapping, and audio tones. Then, patients are asked to try to keep their minds blank while the therapists guide them to refocus those traumatic memories by moving on to another one. 

Benefits of EMDR Therapy for Trauma and Addiction

Despite having different approaches, EMDR therapy can be quite effective in helping those with trauma and addiction disorders. Here are some of the benefits associated with this controversial therapy. 

1. Effective in Treating Mental Illness

Various studies show that EMDR could help people with co-occurring trauma and mental health conditions. EMDR can help people with:

  • Bipolar disorder
  • Depression
  • Psychosis
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Substance use disorders
  • Chronic pain 

2. Increases Self-Awareness

When working with a therapist, EMDR therapy helps patients let go of their traumatic experiences and foster a new way of setting internal beliefs. When people change their perspective about themselves, they become more self-aware of their progress and value. It can improve motivation, mood, and confidence, three critical factors in long-lasting addiction recovery. 

Traumatic experiences often come tied to negative self-talk. EMDR teaches people how to change the negative dialogue and eventually change their experiences with the world. 

3. May Treat Obesity Caused by Traumatic Experiences 

According to new research, adults with obesity frequently struggle with mental health concerns that lead to being overweight, such as a past of eating disorders, childhood trauma, or anxious-depressive illnesses. Psychotherapy, particularly cognitive behavioral therapy, has been demonstrated to help treat obesity and maintain weight loss.  

Mindfulness, hypnosis, family therapy, and EMDR are among the best psychotherapeutic treatments used to assist people in losing weight, especially when they have PTSD. The effectiveness of EMDR for obesity lies in the change of narrative and inner dialogue people have with themselves, their actions, and their choices. 

4. Can Help Panic Attacks & Other Stress-Induced Disorders 

EMDR can be used to treat a wide range of physical symptoms that are thought to result from unprocessed memories of traumatic events. People can suffer from panic episodes, insomnia, and chronic discomfort, among other things, due to the effects of chronic stress on their bodies.

According to studies, people experiencing stress symptoms due to life events can usually be alleviated after three to nine EMDR therapy visits. When utilized as an add-on treatment, there’s also proof that EMDR therapy can help with comorbid symptoms and chronic pain, including depression and mood swings.

5. Can Aid in Treating Eating Disorders

Bulimia nervosa, Anorexia nervosa, and compulsive eating disorder are among the psychiatric diseases for which EMDR has been claimed to be beneficial. While EMDR is rarely used on its own to treat eating problems, it appears to be effective when combined with other therapies and treatment methods.

EMDR Therapy Side Effects to Know 

EMDR therapy is widely regarded as a safe treatment by doctors. It usually has fewer side effects than antidepressants and anti-trauma drugs. Other types of psychotherapy may have side effects such as increased physical or emotional sensations during sessions, an increase in upsetting memories, and the emergence of new traumatic memories, to name a few.

If you or your loved one has trouble coping with a traumatic incident, perhaps several traumas, EMDR may be an effective alternative to standard talk therapy. 

EMDR Therapy In Addiction Treatment

Some rehab facilities will include EMDR therapy as part of their comprehensive approach to treatment. However, because some people may have difficulties reliving traumatic experiences, it is a decision between the patient and their therapist. Regardless, a comprehensive approach can help people navigate through their experiences and find a healing path to help them sustain recovery, even after leaving treatment. 





Written by: Nick B.

Nicholas B. is the Corporate Director of Admissions for our substance abuse and behavioral health company. Nick’s mission is to provide quality care to every person that reaches out regarding substance abuse or behavioral health questions. Knowledge of an ever-changing industry, compassion when dealing with people, and compliance in every decision are the forces that drive his personal and professional growth.

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