How The COVID-19 Pandemic Can Trigger Past Trauma and How EMDR Can Help

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began earlier this year, many are suffering from mental health challenges. Depression and anxiety are at an all-time high, but what about those who have been diagnosed with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder)? If you suffer from PTSD, then you know that everyday triggers can be debilitating.

Triggers are hard enough to cope with, and the pandemic adds an extra layer of stress for many people. If your PTSD has been worse because of COVID-19, you aren’t alone. Fortunately, EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing) therapy may be the key to helping you cope with your trauma.

The Triggering Effects of COVID-19

The pandemic has been incredibly stressful for a lot of us. For those with PTSD, however, the pandemic has potentially added to their trauma. COVID-19 has caused uncertainty, fear, and panic — all things that are associated with trauma.

Though your triggering event may have occurred several years ago, the feeling of uncertainty from the pandemic could serve as a trigger. COVID-19 has brought on a wave of trauma all its own; many of us are still figuring out how to cope with it.

What Is EMDR?

Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing, or EMDR, is a type of psychotherapy. Unlike traditional therapy, EMDR does not rely on talking about or recounting your trauma. Instead, EMDR focuses on your eye movements to lessen the effect of a triggering memory.

EMDR can treat anxiety, eating disorders, and panic attacks, but it is especially beneficial for those with PTSD.

How EMDR Helps with Trauma

When you experience a traumatic memory, it takes an emotional toll. You may feel panicky, emotional, experience a racing heartbeat, and you may feel a host of other physical manifestations. Trauma symptoms can be completely disabling for some people.

EMDR works to weaken the effects of these flashbacks and other trauma symptoms. Over time, with EMDR therapy, your emotional response to triggering memories will become less severe.

What to Expect From an EMDR Session

Instead of relying on talk therapy, EMDR will be more about action. You will have to talk about your trauma, but instead of talking about it with you, your therapist will focus on using eye movements. While you recount a traumatic memory, your therapist will either move their fingers back and forth or use an EMDR tool to give you something to follow with your eyes.

Slowly, your therapist will then shift your thoughts to more pleasant ones. Over time, the technique should help weaken the effects of remembering a traumatic incident. EMDR doesn’t help you remember trauma in a positive way, because this isn’t possible. But it lessens the impact of negative emotions related to trauma.

The Benefits of EMDR

Over time, the main goal of EMDR is to lessen the effects of your triggers and traumatic memories. When you have a traumatic flashback, it can severely impact your emotional and physical well-being.

With EMDR therapy, you can gradually improve your mood and health. While you may never forget your traumatic memories, EMDR provides a way to cope and move forward.

Embracing EMDR Therapy as an Option

EMDR is different than traditional talk-based therapies and can help even if talk therapy has not been helpful in the past. Your success with EMDR comes down to what you feel most comfortable with and what works best for you. Everyone experiences trauma differently; people find success in various forms of therapy.

It’s not easy to cope with trauma, and COVID-19 has made it even more difficult for many people. If you feel stuck in a loop of traumatic memories, there are resources available. Consider EMDR therapy to help lessen the emotional effects of your traumatic memories. At DC Metro Sleep and Psychotherapy, we are experienced in providing EMDR therapy and we are currently providing EMDR online. Contact us for a free consultation to learn more about EMDR therapy and how it can help you.

Annie Miller is a licensed psychotherapist in private practice in the Washington DC area. Annie specializes in working with insomnia (CBT-i)trauma (EMDR)teen mental healthanxiety disorders, and chronic pain. Interested in learning more about EMDR Therapy? Check out DC Metro Sleep and Psychotherapy’s EMDR Therapy Page.

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