Did you know October is National Depression Awareness Month? Much to the relief of mental health workers the stigma attached to depression is lessening as awareness increases. Times are changing and so are your options when it comes to seeking treatment for depression.
Most people are familiar with depression, or at least familiar with the fact that it exists and anyone can struggle with it. However, many people may not know where to start when it comes to how to treat it effectively. Traditional therapy and medication do help, without a doubt. But what happens when it’s just not enough or you aren’t feeling relief? If that question rings true for you, please know that you do have options.
What is EMDR? I’d like to bring to your attention a treatment option, which you may or may not have heard of, known as EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing). Are you familiar with this treatment? During EMDR treatment, bilateral stimulation activates the opposite sides of the brain allowing the brain to release and redefine emotional experiences that are “trapped” within the brain. This type of stimulation actually resembles REM sleep as our eyes move from one side to the other. It is during sleep that the brain naturally sorts out our experiences from the day, discarding useless information and transferring memories appropriately.
Sometimes when we experience a traumatic events, big or small (i.e. getting in trouble at school, bullying, or the emotional trauma experienced when dealing with infidelity), these negative experiences can get “trapped” or “frozen” in the brain and they are unable to resolve naturally which may result in nightmares, depression, anger, anxiety, or emotional disturbance.
Along with the “trapped” negative experience is the negative emotional and sensory information, and childlike or initial interpretation of the experience. Even locked away these negative emotions can still affect us greatly. We can be triggered by any number of things; a scent, a visual object, even being spoken to a certain way can trigger a memory or negative feeling, often without any understanding why. When a negative memory is triggered, the neurological response is protection and the result is a state of hyper-arousal commonly referred to as fight or flight. Stress hormones are released into the body and we find ourselves saying things without thinking or doing things that seem out of character. Unfortunately, the initial and untrue negative beliefs about oneself are reinforced.
What’s an EMDR session like? During a typical EMDR session you would be asked to identify a disturbing target memory. That memory is then processed using bilateral stimulation, the negative feelings, beliefs, or experience become desensitized, meaning they simply become less bothersome. The feelings, beliefs, and/or experience is then reprocessed and a new meaning is attached to the experience or triggers. As your brain arrives at a new conclusion, the original trauma no longer contains the negative emotional charge originally associated with it. The triggers are now neutral, the interpretation of the experience is now intentional and the beliefs about oneself are more positive and present hope instead of powerlessness.
Should I do it? So you may be wondering, “Is EMDR right for me?” Well, if you feel like your traumas, or inner demons, have too much power over you; and if you have a strong desire to be liberated from the traumas of your past, then, yes, EMDR may be a good fit for you.
Please keep in mind, EMDR is not only for those who have suffered significant trauma. Reasons for choosing EMDR include a desire to let go of the rational, logical self and to be able to engage at a deeper level. If focusing solely on symptom management is not getting you the results you desire then you may benefit from EMDR, leading you to a deeper understanding of the root cause of the problem and allowing you to deal with it and find resolution.
If you have any thoughts or questions related to EMDR, depression, or other mental health issues, please feel free to contact me as I would be more than willing to serve where I can.
Licensed Professional Counselor