Can EMDR Therapy Have A Negative Impact? Side Effects of EMDR therapy

Last Update on July 4, 2022 : Published on September 5, 2021
Side effects of EMDR therapy

Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) has been around for a really, really long time. It has recently gained a lot of attention. I think with the increase in mental health awareness, more and more old treatment strategies are coming into light.

EMDR therapy was originally used as a treatment plan for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). It is believed that EMDR can help in reducing the impact of traumatic memories you have on yourself.

It basically heals the symptoms of distress and anxiety. Although EMDR began with treatment of PTSD, it has now grown to treat other mental health illnesses too.

People who have tried EMDR can’t stop gushing about how good it is. People have claimed to have had a positive impact of EMDR on them. But there is always another side to a story.

Also read: What is EMDR Therapy and How Does It Work?

Like every coin has two sides, EMDR has positive as well as negative effects. The question here is can EMDR impact us negatively? Let’s look at some side effects of EMDR therapy that you should be cognizant of…

Side Effects of EMDR Therapy

EMDR functions on mixing two cognitive abilities together i.e. focus and memory. You basically have to recall stress arousing memories while making rapid eye movements (when and how instructed by your therapist)

This entire procedure helps you shift your focus, which in turn reduces the stress attached to a particular memory. And gradually you stop feeling anxious at the recollection of those memories.

Having said that, our mind can work in uncertain ways. Tricking your mind is not as simple as it may seem. Hence, this therapy can have side effects like:

Side effects of EMDR

 1. Emotional Fluctuations

Recollecting old memories will bring back a lot of emotions associated with them. Now since we are trying to trick our mind we shouldn’t forget that it can trick us back. There is so much emotional baggage that we have stored in us.

Opening that shut trunk is sure to bombard you with a hell lot of emotions. The purposeful recollection can rub you the wrong way. Some people have even claimed to have experienced intense mood swings during their EMDR therapy period.

  2. Vivid Dream

Dreams are a representation of our thoughts and memories stored in our conscious and subconscious mind. When you intend on bringing back all the lost memories of a traumatizing event, it acts as a bait for your mind.

You might begin to have vivid and scary dreams. Dreams feel so real and nobody likes to relive something that’s extremely painful. EMDR has some loopholes and having vivid dreams is one such side effect.

 3. Uncontrolled Recollection

Uncontrolled recollection

Since the entire foundation of EMDR is based on a collection of memories, it can sometimes go overboard. Not all can handle emotions that well. We often fail to put a stop when it’s desperately needed.

While recollecting memories we open the jar without knowing the depth of it. That’s where the trouble begins. We had put all our strength and energy in shutting the jar that once reopened can’t stop the flow of unpleasant thoughts and memories.

4. Feel Exposed

When you let your heart out you may begin to feel vulnerable. There have been many patients who decided to quit the treatment because of this very reason.

It’s not easy to tell someone about your fears and your deep dark secrets about your trauma. Putting it out in the universe is a stressful act itself.

5. Lightheadedness And Other Physical Symptoms

Lightheadedness and other physical symptoms

Your mind goes through a lot during this therapy. There’s a potential danger of aggravating the stress involved. Well, our mind often reacts through our body. So many times our body signals us that something’s not right!

Some people have complained that they have experienced a lot of nausea, headache and lightheadedness during the course of EMDR therapy.

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By now, those who have experienced EMDR therapy will agree with me on these side effects. I am sure you must have dealt with at least one of the above-stated side effects of EMDR.

Having said that, I am not questioning the effectiveness of the therapy. Nothing’s black or white. There is always a bit of grey in everything. Similarly, EMDR can have a positive as well as negative impact on our health.

The intent behind writing this article is to make you aware of what you should expect out of EMDR therapy.

I hope this blog helped you find what you were looking for.

Thanks for reading!

Take care! Stay safe!

About The Author

Kirti Bhati
Kirti Bhati

I am an English literature (major) and psychology (minor) graduate from St. Bede’s College, Shimla. Postgraduate in Clinical psychology from IIS University, Jaipur. She has published a Research paper on Music therapy in the military population and Workplace stress in a national seminar conducted by Fortis hospital (gurugram) and international seminar conducted by St. Bede’s College, Shimla, Respectively. Authored a dissertation work on ‘effect of social media addiction on the mental and physical well-being in adolescents’ Currently working at calm sage as a writer.

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