VETERANS / FIRST RESPONDERS
EMDR is listed in the Department of Veterans Affairs & Department of Defense Practice Guidelines "A" category as "highly recommended" for the treatment of trauma. See for more information.
Whatever has happened to you - if it’s still bothering you - is a brain information storage problem and it won’t just go away.
PTSD is due to a mechanical/biological malfunction that keeps bad feelings and anxious body sensations locked in the brain and ricocheting like pin-balls in the body. When people are placed in stressful, life threatening situations their brain starts processing the incoming information in trauma mode. The incoming information, which includes all sensory information such as sights, sounds, tastes, and smells gets encoded as short-term quick-to-retrieve memories. This also includes the feeling of glass, metal, or rocks hitting the body as they are exploded from IEDs. The information recorded by the brain in any violent incident also includes internal feelings such as anger, fear, numbness, and grief. All of this information gets stored as ‘implicit memories’ that are encoded or locked into the lower regions of the brain.
The brain usually does not reprocess and get rid of all of the bad information, even at some later time. Because of this, the emotional-and-body-memories continue to get triggered, as do the images and negative thoughts about yourself. Dreams are examples of how the brain processes the information it receives from an overload situation. The dreams or nightmares are trying to “work out” the bad memories. But what happens when the dream wakes you up? The memories don’t get processed.
For the most part, trauma information does not get resolved and integrated into ‘normal every day life.’ That means that they are waiting there to be triggered. When triggered, the memories reappear as they were encoded. That is, feelings, body sensations and thoughts get activated and they feel as if they-are-just-now-happening! Often we are not aware of exactly is happening, or what triggers it, we just know that something is happening and we don’t like it. For example, when a car backfires and it triggers the startle response. When that happens, not only do the feelings of jumpiness return; the feelings of fear and anger are triggered along with gut level fear of being in danger by a deadly enemy. And while you may know that you are ‘jumpy from the war’ you are not aware that your feeling states have been activated and your thinking states have changed. It may take hours to return to normal. Because of that, you get angry and irritable at loved ones and you see them as enemies. Your thinking has changed and you accuse and blame. So, while you’re aware that the startle response was do to war experiences, you are not aware that your emotional state is also being activated and wreaking havoc in your current everyday life.
You hear people tell you that you’re not acting right but you don’t see it. You know there are problems but you are convinced it is everyone else and that no one understands, except maybe fellow Vets/First Responder. If the above is true for you, then EMDR processing will help.