EMDR Therapy and Women’s Mental Health
Trauma can have a significant impact on a woman’s mental and physical well-being. Experiences such as sexual abuse, domestic violence, or even natural disasters can leave a lasting impression on an individual’s life. According to the National Center for PTSD, women are more likely than men to experience trauma in their lifetime. With one in three women experiencing sexual violence at some point in their lives, trauma is prevalent and often misdiagnosed or kept quiet.
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) Therapy
It is a powerful treatment approach that has been proven to be effective in helping individuals overcome trauma-related conditions. EMDR therapy works by targeting the negative emotions and beliefs associated with traumatic events, helping individuals to process and desensitize the trauma so that it no longer causes emotional distress. EMDR has recently begun gaining popularity after celebrities and well-known people have been touting the benefits. This list includes Prince Harry after the death of his mother, Alanis Morrisette for postpartum after their birth of her child, and actress and activist, Jameela Jamil to help process PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and trauma.
(Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) is a type of psychotherapy intervention that is used to treat individuals who have experienced traumatic events or have been struggling with emotional distress. EMDR therapy is designed to help individuals process traumatic memories in a way that reduces the negative emotional and physical symptoms associated with them.
The therapy was developed by Dr. Francine Shapiro in the late 1980s after she observed that certain eye movements could reduce the intensity of negative emotions associated with distressing memories. She then developed a structured approach to using these eye movements as a therapeutic tool.
During an EMDR therapy session, the client is asked to recall the traumatic event and describe the associated negative emotions, beliefs, and physical sensations. The therapist then uses a variety of techniques, including bilateral stimulation (e.g. eye movements, tapping, or auditory tones), to help the individual process the traumatic memory in a way that reduces the intensity of the negative emotions associated with it. This process allows the individual to form new and more adaptive connections with the traumatic memory.
There are several reasons why EMDR therapy may be particularly beneficial for women who have experienced trauma:
1. Women are more likely to experience somatic symptoms related to trauma. Somatic symptoms refer to physical sensations that arise in the body as a result of psychological stress or trauma. For many women who have experienced trauma, somatic symptoms such as muscle tension, headaches, and stomach discomfort are common. EMDR therapy can help women to process and release the physical sensations associated with traumatic memories, which can lead to a reduction in somatic symptoms.
2. EMDR therapy is a non-invasive and safe treatment approach. Unlike other trauma-focused therapies, EMDR does not require clients to relive traumatic events in great detail. Instead, EMDR therapy focuses on processing the emotions and sensations associated with traumatic memories in a safe and controlled manner.
3. EMDR therapy can be a relatively short-term treatment approach. For many women, the demands of work, family, and other obligations can make it difficult to commit to long-term therapy. EMDR therapy typically involves between six and 12 sessions, making it a more accessible treatment option for many clients.
4. EMDR therapy can help women to develop a greater sense of control over their experiences of trauma. Many women who have experienced trauma feel powerless and out of control. EMDR therapy can help women to develop a greater sense of agency and control over their thoughts and emotions, helping them to reclaim their lives after traumatic events.
5. EMDR therapy can help women to build resilience and coping skills. Trauma can be incredibly challenging, and it can be difficult for individuals to know how to cope with the emotional aftermath of traumatic events. EMDR therapy can help women to develop new coping skills and build resilience, helping them to move forward with their lives after traumatic events.
It is worth noting that while EMDR therapy can be effective for many women, it is not a one-size-fits-all approach. Every individual’s experience of trauma is unique, and it is important to work with a qualified and experienced therapist who can tailor the treatment approach to meet individual needs.
On the whole, EMDR therapy is a powerful treatment approach that can help women overcome trauma-related conditions. Women who have experienced trauma may be particularly likely to benefit from EMDR therapy due to the somatic symptoms associated with trauma, the non-invasive nature of the treatment, and the relatively short-term nature of the therapy. EMDR therapy can help women to develop a greater sense of control over their experiences of trauma, build resilience and coping skills, and move forward with their lives after traumatic events.
National Center for PTSD. (n.d.). How Common Is PTSD in Women? Retrieved from https://www.ptsd.va.gov/understand/common/common_women.asp
Shapiro, F. (2018). Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) Therapy: Basic Principles, Protocols, and Procedures. Guilford Publications.
Chung, M. C., AlQarni, N., AlMazrouei, M., Al Muhairi, S., AlHashemi, S., & Al Bloushi, M. (2019). Gender differences in somatic symptoms and current depression among trauma survivors in Saudi Arabia. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 34(6), 1218–1239. doi: 10.1177/0886260516659642