EMDR Therapy for Anxiety: Powerful Relief in Times of Stress

Written by:

published on:

Updated on:


Note: Your support drives Find-A-Therapist. We earn a commission if you purchase services through our ads.

Looking for a therapist?

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a therapeutic approach initially developed to treat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

The therapy involves patients addressing traumatic memories while they engage in bilateral sensory stimulation, which can include eye movements, tactile stimulation, or auditory tones.

Over the years, EMDR has gained recognition and attention for its potential to treat other mental health challenges, including anxiety disorders.

Understanding EMDR Therapy

EMDR Therapy for Anxiety

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy is an evidence-based therapy technique used to treat various mental health disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, and depression.

EMDR therapy involves eight phases, during which a therapist leads the patient through a series of memory-processing exercises.

These exercises include bilateral stimulation, such as eye movements, tapping, or auditory tones, to engage both brain hemispheres and facilitate the processing of traumatic memories.

This dual attention stimulus helps patients desensitize and reprocess these memories, reducing their emotional intensity and enabling them to gain new perspectives on their experiences.

Adaptive Information Processing (AIP) Model

One essential aspect of EMDR therapy is the Adaptive Information Processing (AIP) model.

This model posits that the brain has an inherent ability to process and integrate traumatic experiences.

However, in cases of severe trauma, this natural process can be disrupted, leading to the formation of unprocessed memories that trigger symptoms of PTSD, anxiety, or depression.

EMDR therapy aims to facilitate the brain’s natural healing process by helping patients access, process, and integrate these unprocessed memories.

Role of the Therapist

EMDR for Anxiety

The role of the therapist in EMDR therapy is to guide the individual through the memory-processing exercises while ensuring a safe and supportive environment.

This process typically involves the individual focusing on a specific memory or event, then the therapist using bilateral stimulation to encourage the brain’s information processing.

Throughout the session, the therapist checks in with the individual, noting any changes in emotions or cognitive shifts as the memory processing progresses.

Working with a skilled and qualified EMDR therapist is paramount for the successful treatment of anxiety disorders and trauma-related conditions.

To find a licensed EMDR therapist, individuals can utilize reputable therapist directories such as Psychology Today or Find-a-Therapist.

These platforms provide a wealth of information about therapists, including their specialties, credentials, and contact details.

EMDR and Anxiety

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a psychotherapy approach that has been found to be effective in treating various anxiety disorders.

Originally developed for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), EMDR works to process traumatic memories and reduce the negative emotions associated with them.

This therapy can also be applied to anxiety disorders due to its focus on targeting and processing disturbing memories and related symptoms.

Emotional Responses

EMDR therapy involves an eight-phase protocol designed to identify, process, and integrate traumatic memories.

This process helps clients change their emotional responses towards the traumatic memories, thereby reducing anxiety symptoms.

The therapy uses bilateral stimulation techniques, such as eye movementstapping, or auditory tones, to enhance the brain’s ability to process and resolve the traumatic memories and the associated disturbances.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

EMDR Therapy for Anxiety

Evidence supports the efficacy of EMDR for treating generalized anxiety disorder (GAD).

The findings suggest that EMDR can effectively alleviate worry and anxiety symptoms in GAD patients.

Panic Disorder and Agoraphobia

In addition to GAD, other anxiety disorders such as panic disorder and agoraphobia have also shown improvement following EMDR therapy.

However, it had no significant impact on the frequency of panic attacks.

A systematic literature review indicated that EMDR decreases the severity of anxiety and panic disorder symptoms, providing an alternative treatment option when traditional cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) approaches might be less effective or not preferred by the individual.

Risk Factors and Considerations in EMDR Therapy

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy is a well-established treatment approach for conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, and other psychological disorders.

However, there are several risk factors and considerations that therapists need to take into account when administering this therapy.


EMDR Therapy for Anxiety

One important consideration is the individual’s sensitivity to painful emotions.

EMDR therapy often involves recalling and processing traumatic events, which can lead to heightened emotional responses, including panic attacks or intense sadness.

The therapist needs to monitor these reactions and adjust the pace of therapy accordingly.

Self-harm or Suicidal Ideation

Another risk factor pertains to individuals with a history of self-harm or suicidal ideation.

While EMDR therapy can be beneficial in resolving traumatic experiences, the initial processing of these memories may temporarily increase the risk of self-harm or suicidal thoughts.

In these cases, therapists should closely monitor their patients and take appropriate precautions to ensure their safety throughout the treatment process.

Frequently Asked Questions

How effective is EMDR for anxiety?

EMDR therapy has been found to be effective in treating anxiety in some individuals.

Targeting anxious autobiographical memories with EMDR can result in decreased anxiety levels.

However, the effectiveness of EMDR for anxiety varies among individuals and depends on the specific anxiety disorder, the severity, and other factors.

What is the EMDR protocol for treating anxiety?

The EMDR protocol for treating anxiety involves several steps, including client history-taking, preparation, assessment, desensitization, installation, body scan, closure, and reevaluation.

Therapists guide clients through these steps while using bilateral stimulation, such as eye movements, tapping, or auditory tones, to help process anxiety-provoking memories and reduce the intensity of associated emotions.

How many sessions are needed for EMDR to treat anxiety?

The number of EMDR sessions required to treat anxiety depends on various factors, including the client’s history, the nature and severity of anxiety, and their response to treatment.

Some individuals may experience significant improvements in a few sessions, while others might require more sessions to achieve desired outcomes.

It is essential to consult with a qualified EMDR therapist to determine the appropriate course of treatment based on individual needs.

When is EMDR not recommended for anxiety?

EMDR may not be recommended for anxiety in certain cases, such as when a client has severe dissociative symptoms or an unstable medical or mental health condition that may interfere with their ability to participate in the treatment.

Additionally, EMDR may not be suitable for individuals with difficulty tolerating high levels of emotional arousal or those with certain neurological conditions.

It is crucial to consult with a mental health professional to determine if EMDR suits the individual’s specific circumstances.

Additional Resources

Prioritizing our mental well-being is paramount in today’s fast-paced world. The digital age has redefined therapy and psychiatric care, making support more accessible than ever. To guide you towards a healthier state of mind, we’ve partnered with pioneering names in mental health.
Note: We collaborate with top-tier mental health companies and we earn a commission if you purchase services through our ads.

Online Therapy

Discover a path to emotional well-being with BetterHelp – your partner in convenient and affordable online therapy. With a vast network of 30,000+ licensed therapists, they’re committed to helping you find the one to support your needs. Take advantage of their Free Online Assessment, and connect with a therapist who truly understands you. Begin your journey today.

Relationship Counceling

Whether you’re facing communication challenges, trust issues, or simply seeking to strengthen your connection, ReGain’s experienced therapists are here to guide you and your partner toward a healthier, happier connection from the comfort of your own space. Get started.

Therapist Directory

Discover the perfect therapist who aligns with your goals and preferences, allowing you to take charge of your mental health. Whether you’re searching for a specialist based on your unique needs, experience level, insurance coverage, budget, or location, our user-friendly platform has you covered. Search here.

About the author

Eliana Galindo
Eliana is a dedicated psychologist from Colombia who has gained extensive experience and made significant contributions in child development, clinical psychology, and rehabilitation psychology.Her work as a rehabilitation psychologist with disabled children has been transformative and compassionate. In the child development field, she creates nurturing environments through assessments, interventions, and collaboration with families.In clinical psychology, she supports individuals overcoming mental health challenges with empathy and evidence-based approaches. Inspired by her experiences, Eliana is motivated to write about mental health, aiming to raise awareness and advocate for a compassionate and inclusive approach to well-being.

You might also be interested in


In some articles, we include products we think are useful for our readers. When you buy through these links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no cost to you.

Information on our website is for educational and informational purposes only. You should not rely on this information as a substitute, nor does it replace professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a mental healthcare professional.

If you need an immediate assistance:

Medical Emergency (US) – 911
Medical Emergency (Global) – 112
Suicide & Crisis Lifeline – 988
Full List of Emergency Resources 

Online Therapy, Your Way

Discover the ease of starting therapy with BetterHelp. Complete the assessment and connect with a licensed professional therapist online.
Note: We earn a commission if you purchase services through our ads.