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Does EMDR Therapy Work for Anxiety?

Are we reacting to the past?

Let’s explore a little the root cause of anxiety in most cases. Whenever we are exposed to a particular situation, we might experience various forms of discomfort such as increased heart rate, sweating, racing thoughts, and a statement like “I need to get out of here.” 


The symptoms may vary depending on each person. So, we are left to ask the following question: what are we reacting to when triggered? Is it the present moment or a certain memory that associates the present moment to a bad experience? Let’s see how EMDR therapy works for anxiety.

How past incidents can trigger anxiety in us

I often explore this with my clients in therapy, trying to understand the association between the present and their past experiences. In most cases, a strong reaction to the present situation with no apparent reason can be attributed to past traumatic incidents. 


For example, failing at math in high school and being ridiculed by your teacher or family can develop a negative belief of “I suck at math.” Then, years later, you’re an adult delivering a presentation on the company’s sales performance, and you find yourself terrified of speaking about numbers. Your anxiety is through the roof. 


In the scenario, your response is more to the past than the present situation in this scenario.

How EMDR therapy helps. Replacing the negative belief.

When using EMDR therapy for anxiety, I work with my clients to identify the original incident and its negative belief. Then the remaining goal of therapy is to revise the negative belief with a healthy statement, such as “I can improve my math skills.” or “I am good at math today.” This process may take several sessions in order to replace the negative narrative with a much reasonable version of the reality. 


In my personal experience, EMDR has been very helpful to my clients suffering from anxiety related to past incidents. If you’re interested in reading further about EMDR therapy, check out How Does EMDR Therapy Works? 



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