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  • Writer's pictureHeather Keenan, LCSW

How EMDR Helps People Overcome Anxiety and Depression

Do you struggle with repetitive thoughts resulting in anxiety and depression? Maybe you have been going to traditional talk therapy, but still, feel like you have little to no control over your thoughts. Struggling with anxiety and depression can be exhausting and debilitating. On one hand, we know a thought is irrational. However, on the other hand, our body believes this thought to be so true! We sometimes wonder, “Can I even get better?”.

Traditional talk therapy can be extremely helpful in gaining insight into your irrational and repetitive thought patterns. However, it can take time, effort, and patience to begin re-framing these irrational thought patterns into rational ones. Think about how many years you have reinforced these irrational thoughts. It is going to take time to form a new habit of thinking.

If you feel you have been trying to improve your anxiety and depression, but just feel stuck in perpetual negative thought patterns and behaviors, EMDR therapy may be the next best option for you.

Thought Patterns and Belief Systems

Each and every one of us experiences specific thought patterns and belief systems. All of our emotions are created based on what thoughts go through our heads. When we think certain thoughts, we are going to feel certain feelings. Oftentimes, these repetitive thoughts have gone unnoticed because they have been here for years! They are so habitual that no conscious effort goes into thinking them.

Underneath these thought patterns, are our belief systems. These belief systems are about ourselves, other people, our function in the world, and how we should behave and act. Belief systems are formed by either someone directly telling us or by us indirectly forming them through observations of others' behaviors, such as our parents or teachers. These belief systems can be both helpful and unhelpful and we continue to form them throughout our whole life.

Belief systems then give us a certain “lens” that we look out of and interpret our lives through. Since our brain is all about comfort, it will seek out evidence that affirms our belief systems to be true. Since these belief systems are reinforced and supported by biased evidence, it can be challenging to start changing them.

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) Therapy

EMDR Therapy was originally created for those who have experienced trauma. When we go through a traumatic experience, the memory can often be stored incorrectly in the brain. This results in your brain not knowing that the trauma is over and continue to respond as if you are still in danger. This explains both the physical and mental reactions when we experience triggers. Certain belief systems that were formed subconsciously at the time of the trauma are then triggered. These belief systems can vary from, “I’m not safe” to “I’m not good enough.”

Anxiety and depression can both be exacerbated by triggers, as well. These can vary from something in your environment all the way to a specific body sensation. These thought patterns and belief systems can be self-defeating and irrational and can ultimately lead to increased depression and anxiety.

EMDR Therapy for Anxiety

When we experience anxiety, it is helpful to take a step back and recognize what thought patterns we are experiencing. Oftentimes, we catch ourselves catastrophizing or thinking the worst outcome. Underneath these thought patterns, we have a specific belief system that is driving our anxiety. A few examples could be, “I’m awkward” when experiencing social anxiety or “I need to be perfect” when anxious about one’s performance.

These belief systems did not form overnight and we can usually feel it so strongly in our guts. Utilizing EMDR therapy, we are able to process through specific memories that are attached to these belief systems in order to change how we interpret that memory and ultimately ourselves. Through reprocessing, we will be able to shift our belief systems from, “I need to be perfect” to “I am doing the best I can” or “I’m allowed to make mistakes”.

EMDR Therapy for Depression

Similar to anxiety, we experience certain thought patterns and belief systems that can exacerbate our depression. These belief systems can be regarding how we view ourselves or even how we view our healing process. A few examples of common thought patterns associated with depression are, “I’m not good enough”, “I’m a failure”, or “Things will never get better”. Through EMDR therapy, we can shift these belief systems to more helpful and encouraging ones, resulting in a decrease in depression.

If you or a loved one are struggling with anxiety and depression and resonated with any part of this article, EMDR therapy may be for you. If you are in South Florida and would like a free 15-minute consultation call, please call me at 954-391-5305.

I offer traditional talk therapy and EMDR counseling in Fort Lauderdale and across the state of Florida via a secure telehealth platform. For more information about my approach and services, visit my bio here. I look forward to helping you break through negative thought patterns to experience greater happiness and fulfillment in life and your relationships.


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