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Last updated on September 25th, 2023.

Those who suffer from the side effects of a traumatic experience often seek out therapists who can help them move past them. When other types of therapy fail to work, patients look for alternative options that may be available.

Therapists with patients who suffer from various forms of traumatic experiences use eye movement therapy as a way to help them cope. This treatment, when done properly, has been known to alleviate symptoms of anxiety, depression, and other ailments related to trauma.

To discover if eye movement therapy is the right choice for what you are going through, you will need to discuss it with your therapist. In the meantime, keep reading to learn more about what eye movement therapy is and what disorders it may help.

What is Eye Movement Therapy?

Eye Movement Therapy is a type of psychotherapy treatment that is designed to help those who have experienced trauma. This type of therapy is often offered for people whose trauma has affected their quality of life.

Originally developed as a way to help those suffering from PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), it has now been known to be used for many types of mental health-related issues with some success.

EMDR, or Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, Therapy is the most commonly known method of eye movement therapy. During EMDR sessions, a therapist will use various stimuli that are designed to cause rapid bilateral eye movement.

This stimulation is done in conjunction with the patient focusing on the past traumatic event. The belief is that the stimulation will cause the patient to stay in the present without retreating to the event that caused them the trauma.

EMDR has shown favorable results for many patients who suffer from traumatic memories or other mental health issues. Eye movement therapy does not typically take a long time to do, however, patients seem to continue feeling the benefits for a long time after.

It is important to note that while for some patients one to two sessions may show results, with others more sessions may be required. It is also important to understand that EMDR does not completely get rid of the memory, but it can help to lessen the patient’s reaction to the memory. If you are interested in learning about EMDR salary and career information read this article.

How Does Eye Movement Therapy Work?

EMDR and other eye movement therapies are divided into eight different phases that are designed to slowly bring the patient into the right frame of mind. The number of sessions in total depends on the amount of trauma the person has and how responsive they are to the therapy.

The eight phases of EMDR include:

  • Phase 1: Patient History and Introduction
  • Phase 2: Coping Technique Training
  • Phase 3: Condition Assessment
  • Phases 4-7: Treatment
    • Desensitization
    • Installation
    • Body Scan
    • Closure
  • Phase 8: Re-evaluation

The process of EMDR begins with a session with the therapist to become acquainted with each other. This also allows the therapist to probe for information about the past trauma.

Following the initial session, additional meetings will be scheduled to begin the EMDR process with the patient. During these sessions, the therapist typically asks the patient to pull up the memory of the event and stay focused on that while they begin the bilateral stimulation.

Throughout the session, the therapist checks in with the patient to ensure that they are not getting too distressed. Then, they continue with the bilateral stimulation until the memory is not causing as much stress.

The coping technique training phase is a way for the therapist to give patients various ways they can deal with the anxiety using EMDR as well as stress they may feel during the process. Certain calming techniques can help to move them further along than they may have been able to in the past.

More Phase Details

The assessment phase is designed to get the patient thinking about what memories may be causing them stress and anxiety. Therapists do this by probing further into their past and asking questions that may lead the patient to their most painful memory.

The treatment phase begins with desensitizing the patient from the traumatic memory by asking them to think about it while using bilateral stimulation at the same time. This phase is often done in starts and stops to allow the therapist to evaluate how the patient is holding up.

The installation portion consists of replacing the negative thoughts and self-talk with positive thoughts and self-talk. While thinking positive thoughts the therapist continues with the bilateral stimulation.

The body scan phase is designed as a “check-in” from the therapist to the patient to ensure they are doing alright and to see if there are any residual negative feelings with what they think of the trauma. If negative thoughts exist, another round of bilateral stimulation is done.

During the closure phase, which comes at the end of each session, the therapist works with the patient to teach them various self-soothing and relaxation techniques. These are designed to help them should they find themselves with anxiety again.

What Your Eyes Say About Your Mental Health?

They say that the eyes are the “windows to the soul” but, are they also the windows to a person’s mental health? Many experts believe that to be true in many instances of various mental disorders.

You can tell a lot through the eyes of another person including whether they are happy, sad, or have something on their mind. Emotions are often seen within the eyes as a way to let others know that you are feeling something.

But, what do your eyes say about your mental health? Researchers now believe that mental health conditions such as schizophrenia and other disorders have visible markers that can be detected within the eyes.

Since the eyes are linked to the brain in a variety of ways, it only makes sense that scientists could detect mental health disorders in this way. The retina of the eye is believed to be directly linked to the brain and can tell researchers quite a bit about what may be happening.

Medical tools such as electroretinography have been used to look for certain markers that would indicate that a patient could develop or already is schizophrenic or even has a major depressive disorder. Because of this finding, they also believe that this can be used to identify other mental health disorders more clearly.

Common Disorders That Impact Eye Movement

While there are many types of mental health disorders that exist, researchers believe that at least some of them are linked to various eye movements. For example, a person with schizophrenia often is reported to have rapid eye movement that makes it difficult to focus on any one idea.

Because of the more advanced research in this area, scientists and researchers alike have been able to pinpoint certain markers of mental health disorders. Many of the markers have to do with eye movement and therefore may be able to be treated similarly.

Read on below to learn about some of the most common disorders that impact eye movement.

PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder)

PTSD is defined as a mental health disorder that is caused by extreme trauma that causes people to continually recall and live in the situation long term. This means that patients who suffer from PTSD have difficulty putting the traumatic experience behind them to move forward with their lives.

PTSD is often seen in military personnel who have been to a war zone and have witnessed traumatic events. These soldiers tend to have a hard time acclimating to their life outside of the military without some type of therapy.

Those with this disorder have reportedly had symptoms of nightmares, night terrors, anxiety, panic attacks, depression, and other severe reactions. They tend to have more heightened reactions to more common everyday activities as well.

PTSD researchers have linked the disorder to various eye movements and reactions that can help them determine that there is an underlying condition. Since this is the case, they have been able to find various therapies that work for patients with PTSD.

Anxiety and Panic Disorders

Many people in the world live with anxiety or other types of panic disorders daily for a variety of reasons. For many people, these mental disorders manifest from certain events that have happened in a person’s life.

Researchers have learned that those who have anxiety and panic disorders most likely had some type of traumatic event that created the mental health challenge. These events can be extreme or even mild but can result in anxiety nonetheless.

Years ago, it was rare to have someone diagnosed with anxiety and panic disorders because at any point in time everyone may have some type of anxiety. However, in recent years, researchers have learned that anxiety and panic attacks are typically brought on by past events and can be debilitating to those who suffer from them.

Anxiety and panic disorders are also commonly linked and impact eye movement in a variety of ways. When someone is in the midst of a panic attack, their eyes are often wild-looking and they have rapid eye movement.

Major Depressive Disorders

Major Depressive Disorder, commonly just referred to as depression, is a mood disorder that causes feelings of sadness and loss of interest in daily activities. These feelings can bring on symptoms of loss of appetite, the need to sleep excessively, inability to concentrate, and much more.

Depression is said to be brought on by a variety of things such as certain traumatic events that occur in a person’s life. In addition, it is said to have some biological and psychological sources as well.

While some people with depression can typically continue to function in many areas of their life, someone with a major depressive disorder may not be able to. This is typically indicated by the sudden or gradual movement away from normal activities and is exchanged for the need to sleep or just do nothing.

In many cases, depression can impact eye movement in a variety of ways. Researchers describe the eyes of a person with a major depressive disorder to have a lack of normal eye movement. This is because they are more shut down and are low on energy which can be seen through the eyes.

Modern Eye Movement Treatments For These Disorders

While therapists, psychiatrists, and doctors have been treating these mental health disorders for years with medication, more modern treatments have moved away from this belief. This is because, although medications go a long way to helping stave off symptoms, it only puts a bandaid on the real issue. Starting to study zen Buddhism could give a good sense of the benefits of these kind of treatment.

Because of this, many researchers have been looking for other treatments that can have more long-term effects on patients who suffer from PTSD, anxiety, panic disorders, depression, and other disorders. Many believe that EMDR and other eye movement therapies maybe just that treatment.

Since studies have shown impressive results in those who have PTSD after they have gone through EMDR, more and more therapists are using this to help their patients, this is why choosing the right EMDR therapist is essential. The traumatic nature of PTSD makes it a prime candidate for using this type of therapy.

Those patients who have undergone EMDR or other types of eye movement therapy are said in studies to have overcome their fears and panic to go on living a normal life. It is important to keep in mind that EMDR is not meant to be a cure for these disorders, but helps patients put their trauma in perspective to help them live with it better.

Those with anxiety and panic disorders typically have something in their past that has caused these feelings. No matter the cause, they tend to feel somewhat out of control. Modern eye movement therapies can help them take back their life.

This is the same with those who suffer from major depressive disorders in that there is often a trigger that causes the onset of the feelings associated with the condition. Using eye movement therapy can go a long way to helping them cope with these feelings more productively.

Final Thoughts

The bottom line is that while EMDR and other eye movement therapies are still being researched to learn more about why it works, it has helped many people move forward with their lives. They may continue to have the memories of the traumatic event, but through their coping skills learned through EMDR, they are better able to deal with what faces them.

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