Everyone experiences trauma at some point in their lives, whether it’s an unexpected death, a care accident, violence, or a natural disaster. Additionally, there are millions of Americans that work in jobs where they are regularly exposed to situations that are traumatic.
Trauma causes feelings of stress, unease, and worry. These are natural feelings that are completely normal to feel in traumatic situations. After a traumatic event, as time passes, most people can work through these feelings on their own or with help from friends and family. However, there are some people who have difficulty overcoming the trauma they’ve witnessed or experienced without professional help. They develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which has some intrusive and unpleasant symptoms.
The symptoms of PTSD include nightmares, flashbacks, fear, anxiety, panic attacks, and depression. People with PTSD often avoid the people, places, and things that remind them of the traumatic experience to keep from being triggered. They may lose interest in things they used to enjoy, feel unnecessary guilt, and end up turning to drugs and alcohol as a way to self-medicate. The substances may boost their mood for a while, but ultimately, they change the way their brains work, causing them to want more and more of the drug or alcohol. This is how addiction happens.
Once you develop an addiction to drugs or alcohol, it is considered to be a co-occurring mental health disorder to the PTSD. Co-occurring disorders have to be treated simultaneously to have the best chances of recovery. EMDR is one effective therapy for PTSD alongside drug or alcohol addiction.
What is EMDR?
EMDR stands for eye movement desensitization and reprocessing. It’s a therapy that helps manage a person’s trauma using sporadic visual stimulation. It allows individuals to access memories of traumatic events and then process them in a way that resolves distress, making the memories less emotional and intrusive. EMDR detox treatment has been proven effective as a treatment for PTSD and to help people heal traumatic events, negative reactions, and the triggers associated with the trauma.
More and more treatment centers offer EMDR therapy for help with the co-occurring disorders of PTSD and drug or alcohol addiction.
Some of the most common uses for EMDR therapy besides PTSD, include:
- Panic attacks
- Complex grief
- Dissociative disorders
- Performance anxiety
- Disturbing memories
- Sexual abuse
- Stress reduction
- Personality disorders
- Body dysmorphic disorders
How Does EMDR Work?
EMDR involves using rapid eye movements, like that in REM sleep, to lessen the power of emotionally charged memories of past trauma. In a session, the therapist will ask you to recall a disturbing event and how you felt at the time while you follow a moving light going back and forth from left to right. Some therapists don’t use a light, instead you simply follow his or her finger going back and forth in front of your face. Gradually, you will be guided to shift your thoughts to a more pleasant one. Sometimes tactile and audio stimulation is also used, in alternating patterns. The goal of EMDR is to lessen negative feelings associated with the traumatic event, moving the memory to the appropriate portion of the brain.
What is EMDR Used for In Addiction Treatment?
In a drug and alcohol treatment program, EMDR is often used along with cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). It’s most often used in an individual setting, though it may also be used in group settings. When using EMDR to help resolve trauma and drug or alcohol addiction, therapists will treat each individual through a trauma-informed lens. This allows them to address the contributing factors and underlying causes of the person’s addiction.
EMDR provides multiple benefits for people in addiction treatment programs, including:
- Relief from the psychological symptoms of trauma and PTSD
- Relief from the physical symptoms or trauma and PTSD
- Reducing or eliminating emotional distress from the disturbing memories
- Resolving present and anticipated triggers
- Improving self-efficacy and self-esteem
Negative or traumatic life experiences don’t have to define your thoughts, beliefs, and behaviors. With EMDR therapy and CBT, you can overcome those traumatic experiences and heal.
Inpatient Treatment for Co-Occurring Disorders in Orange County
Drug and alcohol treatment programs for people with co-occurring disorders have demonstrated that integrated treatment is the most successful approach. When strategies from the fields of psychiatry and addiction treatment are combined, it can lower the risk of relapse for those who complete treatment, reduce the number of suicides, and help with long-term sobriety and recovery.
Generally speaking, inpatient, or residential, addiction treatment programs are recommended for individuals who have co-occurring disorders. With inpatient treatment, you will live at the rehab facility for a period of time while you participate in various activities and therapies. These programs are more intensive than outpatient treatments, which makes it more likely that they will offer you access to EMDR therapy. Not all drug and alcohol addiction treatment centers offer EMDR, so you will have to do some research to make sure your choice does.
Because each individual is unique, and each individual’s addiction is unique, it’s important that your inpatient program is tailored to your needs. Before you enroll in treatment, the admissions counselor at the treatment center should take a thorough assessment of your personal history, medical history, and drug or alcohol history to help therapists create your individual treatment plan. The assessment may change somewhat after your detox program because other psychiatric, psychological, or other co-occurring disorders may be identified and need to be addresses as well.
Going to treatment for addiction is a big step; it takes courage and a willingness to work hard for recovery. But it’s also a decision that may change your life for the better – especially if you also have a co-occurring disorder like PTSD. While treatment for co-occurring disorders may be more complicated, finding the right treatment program and facility can lead to a successful, long-term recovery.