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EMDR Therapy in Eating Disorder Treatment

Although Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) was initially developed for veterans who suffered flashbacks and nightmares upon return from war, research has found that EMDR is also helpful in treating other disorders.

What is Trauma?

Trauma is a physical, emotional, and/or psychological response to a distressing, traumatic event(s). Trauma work is inherent in the treatment of eating disorders as it often underlies the illness, however, it can easily get overlooked because many don’t acknowledge that not all trauma comes from a single event.

Trauma can result from bullying, childhood neglect, poverty and food scarcity, job loss, hate crimes, and attachment issues. These are less abrupt than the images that may come to mind thinking about trauma, however prolonged instances of trauma build over time.

Eating Disorders and Trauma

Eating disorders can affect people from all walks of life and can sometimes derive from traumatic experiences. Eating disorders affect a person’s perception of food and their body image, but it is not always strictly about food. During treatment it is important to consider unresolved trauma that may manifest through eating disorder symptoms. EMDR therapy can be useful in processing experiences and negative beliefs to reduce emotional distress and better manage triggers.

How Does EMDR in Eating Disorder Recovery Work?

The goals of EMDR in eating disorder treatment are to manage triggers, identify and disprove negative core beliefs that may sustain an eating disorder, replace negative core beliefs with more objective or positive ones, and minimize intense emotions to more manageable levels.

During EMDR therapy, the client is asked to focus on the image of a traumatic event and the negative thought associated with the event. At the same time, the therapist will use bilateral stimulation - which may be the therapist moving their finger back and forth horizontally, hand tapping, vibrating hand wands, or auditory tones.

After a successful EMDR session, the patient will still remember the traumatic event but the distressing symptoms will alleviate and make day to day more manageable. EMDR can help release the reasons the eating disorder started in the first place.

If you or someone you know is on the road to eating disorder recovery and are interested in EMDR therapy, call or text (512) 655-3878 or contact us using the form on our site. Most all of our therapists at Austin Counseling and Nutrition are EMDR-trained.

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