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Can EMDR help reduce my anxiety?

Updated: May 30

Although our main counselling approach at Mental Blocks is Eye Movement Desensitization & Reprocessing (EMDR) Therapy, most of our clients come to see us in order to learn how to manage their anxiety more effectively. Originally, EMDR was designed for trauma and PTSD but it has also been found effective for treating many types of anxiety, including fear, panic, OCD, poor responses to stressful situations and a combination of generalized anxiety and depressive symptoms. Common physical symptoms of anxiety include: heart pounding; shortness of breath; sweating; shaking; nausea; dizziness; chest pain or tightness; numbness or tingling sensations. Anxiety can also affect our thinking, such that we might be fearful of losing control or feel constant dread that something bad might happen.

Anxiety may appear before, during of after any of the following:

  1. public speaking

  2. social settings

  3. driving

  4. flying

  5. medical procedures

  6. dental visits

  7. taking a test

  8. interacting with new people

  9. sex

  10. relationships

  11. work

  12. eating

Events and experiences that we have not rationally recognized as traumatic may have left you with anxiety. Some traumas are capital T traumas (i.e. natural disaster, terrorist attack, being in a combat zone, car accident, sexual abuse, physical violence or injury, threats, etc.) and others are smaller, less obvious forms of trauma that are considered small t traumas (i.e. divorce, legal trouble, having a child, conflict with a boss, infidelity, financial difficulty, bullying). I’ve recognized the role of small t traumas in many clients who had parents who worked long hours or who had more children than they could attend to. This could also involve you having a sick sibling who simply needed more attention from your parents. We can rationalize that our parents’ diverted focus was understandable and reason that they did their best. But, unfortunately, at a young age, we are fully dependent on adults and neglect is what may become encoded in the body, as our bodies remember. In Bessel van der Kolk M.D.’s book, The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind and Body in the Healing of Trauma, van der Kolk argues:

“Childhood neglect can prime individuals to be on high alert, their bodies tuned to fight or flight.”

When we are older, we may be reminded of the feelings of childhood neglect by reacting strongly when someone doesn’t return a text when we expect them to or they reply with short answers. These moments, while annoying but bearable for many, leave others paralyzed by doubt and fear or the possibility of rejection.

If you have any questions, please feel free to email Sally-Anne here. We look forward to hearing from you.

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