The Treatment Benefits of Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing
Behind each person’s eating disorder is a unique set of causes. There is no one single reason why an otherwise healthy individual might develop disordered eating habits. Causes range from taking extreme measures to fit in to a perceived societal ideal of physical beauty to trauma to obsessive-compulsive disorder. Often an eating disorder involves a co-occurring condition, such as a substance use disorder or mental health disorder, such as anxiety or depression. No matter the root cause of the eating disorder, treating the individual in order to attain not only a healthy weight, but also a healthy mind is the ultimate goal.
What is EMDR?
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a therapeutic treatment technique to manage a variety of disorders, including eating disorders. It was developed in 1987 by psychologist, Francine Shapiro, when she noticed a link between eye movement and cognition, and the resulting effect it had on negative emotions.
EMDR involves a trained therapist initially working with the patient to identify memories or thoughts that are causing emotional pain and distress that may be contributing to a dangerous eating disorder. Once the source of the pain or trauma is determined, the therapist uses horizontal hand movements, sometimes in conjunction with tones played through the patient’s headphones, to provoke a series of eye movements while the patient thinks about the distressing core issue.
The goal of EMDR is to trigger the brain to replicate the process that happens during sleep, where the brain processes the day’s events through images and rapid eye movement (REM phase). The thesis of EMDR is that certain circumstances or events that were causing stress or discord often become softened over night, as the brain’s natural processes help resolve the issue. Often the next morning the troubling event or issue has lost much of its potency.
How Does EMDR Help Eating Disorders?
During the course of the EMDR therapeutic session, memories and emotions can rise to the surface. As the sessions progress, connections can be made between the emotions experienced as a result of reliving the traumatic or distressing memories, and the subsequent anxiety that is contributing to disordered eating.
Revelations that result from EMDR, such things as a controlling parent, parents getting divorced, physical or emotional abuse, or loss and grief, can aid mental health professionals in treating eating disorders by getting to the root cause. That cause becomes the target for the patient’s focus during the sessions, allowing for a change in their behavioral response to it.
Eventually, the intense reaction the patient once had to the trigger becomes less pronounced, and the patient is less motivated to engage in their disordered eating patterns. The process of EMDR, having brought about the revelation of what the underlying issue is, begins to resolve the painful memories, diminishing the patient’s need to continue anorexic or bulimic behaviors.
Help for Eating Disorders
There is help available for those suffering from a debilitating eating disorder. At Casa Serena, our supportive and compassionate professionals can help you in your process of developing life-long skills for healing. It takes courage to ask for help, and we honor that courage and believe in your ability to make positive changes in your life needed to let go of an eating disorder. Call our Admissions Team today to learn more at (925) 682-8252.
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