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What Exactly Is EMDR And Dangers Of Emdr Therapy

The dangers of EMDR therapy, although relatively rare, should not be overlooked. EMDR therapy is generally considered safe and effective, but it's essential to be aware of potential risks and side effects.

Author:Suleman Shah
Reviewer:Han Ju
Jan 19, 2024
You might be concerned about the risks of EMDR treatment if you're not familiar with eye movement desensitization and reprocessing and you're thinking about doing it for your adolescent or young adult. Although some things need to be clarified about the procedure, it is safe. It's beneficial to examine EMDR treatment in general before delving further into this subject.
When teens or young adults go through traumatic, stressful, or painful situations, they may not always be able to digest them completely. Then, they relive the trauma whenever something triggers memories of it, be it a sound, image, or sensation.
Through the use of eye movements, EMDR modifies the way the brain retains these memories, assisting young people in progressively reprocessing their historyand reducing feelings of trauma and anxiety. In this post, we'll discuss, investigate, and provide a response to the query, "Can EMDR be harmful? Or what are the potential dangers of EMDR therapy?"

What Exactly Is EMDR?

Hand Signs And Eyes
Hand Signs And Eyes
EMDR stands for eye movement desensitization and reprocessing; it's a technique used in mental healththerapythat teaches the brain to more efficiently absorb memories and triggers that influence how an individual perceives themselves and the world around them. Both in-person and remote EMDR sessions are viable options for treatment.
The Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) treatment protocol has been validated for use in the management of a wide range of mental healthconditions, most notably those associated with traumatic experiences.6 Listed below are some of the most
often-seen uses of EMDR.
  • Reprocessing one's memories through the use of EMDR therapy for PTSD might assist a person in feeling less compelled to either "fight or flight."
  • Patients suffering from depression who undergo EMDR therapy may have a better understanding of the circumstances that led to the development of their negative self-concept.
  • EMDR can help someone cope with their reasons and triggers, which can lead to a reduction in their anxiety.

Why Is EMDR So Controversial?

Studies have shown that Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is beneficial in treating post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), but the specific mechanism underlying its efficacy is still a mystery.
There is a substantial amount of disagreement among researchers about the significance of eye movements in EMDR, with some claiming that they are necessary. In contrast, othersmaintain that they are not. The efficacy of EMDR, as well as the processes that underlie it, have been the subject of much discussion.
Eye movements, a fundamental aspect of the treatment, have been called into doubt by critics who wonder whether or not they actually have any therapeutic value.
Some people believe that EMDR is nothing more than an exposure method that does not include eye movements, while others contend that it is effective in treating trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
A meta-analysis conducted in 2001 concluded that EMDR therapy is beneficial, particularly when contrasted to receiving no treatment at all. On the other hand, its effectiveness is on par with that of other treatments, such as cognitive behavioral therapy and exposure therapies for anxiety.
It's possible that EMDR's signature eye movements aren't essential to the therapy's effectiveness. Although it was first marketed as a remedy that only required one session, in most cases, numerous sessions are necessary to achieve the optimum benefits. Research on EMDR is continuing, and in order to verify that the findings are valid, it is necessary to construct rigorous studies and consistently assess outcomes.

Is EMDR Therapy Scary

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, or EMDR treatment, is not necessarily "scary." However, because of its nature and the feelings it may elicit, it may cause anxiety or discomfort in certain people.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other illnesses connected to trauma are the main conditions that are treated with EMDR. Clients in EMDR sessions are assisted in recalling traumatic experiences while concurrently practicing bilateral stimulation methods, such as tonal listening or mimicking the therapist's finger motions. Reprocessing painful memories is intended to lessen their emotional effect.
Some people are anxious at the thought of talking about or going back to unpleasant events. Furthermore, at first, the feelings of bilateral stimulation may feel strange or uncomfortable. However, it's essential to keep in mind that EMDR is carried out under the supervision of a licensed therapist who contributes to the creation of a secure and encouraging atmosphere.
Even though EMDR treatment can elicit strong emotions and pain during sessions, a lot of people feel that it's a compelling and transformational method for trauma recovery.
Reduced mental distress and enhanced general well-being are long-term advantages that frequently surpass any potential pain at first. It's important to share any worries you may have with your therapist if you're thinking about EMDR treatment in order to guarantee a relaxing and fruitful therapeutic session.
Woman Wearing Collared Top
Woman Wearing Collared Top

Can EMDR Cause Dissociation?

Traumatic events are frequently the cause of dissociation, which is defined as a break between a person's ideas, sense of identity, memories, and sensory experiences. As a result, dissociative symptoms are common in patients undergoing therapy, such as Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR).
A well-known therapy strategy for treating trauma-related illnesses, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), is EMDR. Even while EMDR isn't usually used as the primary treatment for dissociative disorders, it can be a helpful technique for those who are having trouble dissociating.
Crucially, dissociation is not known to be a side effect of EMDR. When it comes to EMDR dangers, people with dissociative disorders and PTSD are often comparable. The order and development of treatment phases, however, is an essential component of EMDR therapy. It can be dangerous to cross a client's dissociative boundaries too soon since this might worsen symptoms, raise suicidal thoughts, or cause instability.
A trained therapist must carefully go through each step of EMDR treatment in order to reduce these hazards. Before moving on to the reprocessing step, this entails doing a thorough examination, putting safety precautions in place, and making sure the client is ready. To use EMDR safely and effectively in dissociation instances, a therapist's skill and awareness of each patient's distinct requirements are critical.

EMDR Myths & Misconceptions

Beginning treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) may be an intimidating experience, particularly if one is seeking an alternative approach to the more conventional talk therapy.
There are a lot of myths and misunderstandings about EMDR, which may contribute to your confusion about whether or not it's the treatment that's best suited for you.
If you have a basic understanding of how eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) works, determining whether or not it will be helpful to you will be much easier. Some typical myths and misunderstandings regarding EMDR include the following:

EMDR Is Hypnosis

The capacity of the brain to naturally process information is encouraged through the use of EMDR's bilateral stimulation, which can take the form of movement involving both sides of the body. This often involves making eye motions, such as glancing side to side or back and forth. Although the use of eye movement may, naturally, bring up associations with hypnosis in some people, EMDR is not hypnosis.

EMDR Is A Brand-New Therapy

Although eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) has just recently been gaining popularity, the technique has been around for more than three decades. Due to the amount of time available, a large number of high-quality research projects have been carried out.

EMDR Can Plant False Memories

Clients might wonder if EMDR has the potential to implant erroneous memories in their heads. Without a shadow of a doubt, EMDR is unable to implant a memory that was not previously present.
 Woman Leaning on Piano
Woman Leaning on Piano

EMDR Might Cause You To Go Crazy

Any approach to mental health therapy has the potential to be distressing at some point. Although you may experience discomfort, it is doubtful that you will go "crazy" or become so uncomfortable that you will be unable to recover from it.
This has not been recorded. The EMDR therapy process includes careful preparation, during which your therapist will teach you coping mechanisms and grounding skills, as well as equip you with tools and resources. You always have the option to ask for a break if the discomfort is becoming intolerable.

You'll Have To Talk About All The Details Of The Trauma At Length

The Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) treatment is advantageous in that it does not need the patient to discuss or review the entirety of a traumatic experience. In order to assist you with reprocessing, the therapist will require a limited amount of information.
When it comes to discussing the specifics of the traumatic event, you are in complete control of how much information you provide.


EMDR is most widely used to treat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), although it is also effective in treating anxiety, depression, chronic pain, and other conditions. Discuss the possibility of using the Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) approach with your therapist.

The Side Effects Of EMDR

EMDR is not an exception to the rule that every beneficial treatment may have some unwanted consequences, and it is crucial to be aware of this fact.
Both the therapist and the client can benefit from having an understanding of the potential dangers and difficulties associated with EMDR in order to increase the likelihood that the treatment will be successful. The following are some potential adverse effects:

Feeling Uncomfortable

Any form of treatment could make one feel uneasy at first, but particularly early on. When you meet and talk to someone you may not know very well, it might seem unpleasant, and it may not be easy to disclose your private thoughts and feelings, which can impede your therapy. This can also be embarrassing for the person you are talking to.
Therapy is likely to be more difficult for those who have been through traumatic experiences. Those who have survived traumatic experiences may have difficulty trusting people, and their survival reaction may become triggered as they get therapy for their conditions.

Surfacing New Memories

When you focus on one memory from the past, it's possible that additional recollections may come to mind, which might be disturbing. The therapist should work with you to decide how to contain these new memories and/or work on them in order to reduce the amount of anguish that you feel.

Strong Feelings And Emotions

During therapy sessions, one could experience a release of powerful and deep feelings that could persist for hours or even days following the session.
It's possible that at the end of the sessions, you'll feel irritated, anxious, or on edge. These sensations do not remain for an extended period; in most cases, as treatment continues, the client becomes better at processing their feelings.

Sensations Experienced In The Body

During the sessions, you can notice that you feel certain bodily sensations, such as sobbing or tense muscles.
In the event that this occurs, keep in mind that you are always in charge and have the ability to request a break whenever necessary. These sensations are likewise not likely to last for a highly extended time.

Nightmarish Visions

After participating in an EMDR session, it is not unusual to have unique or particularly vivid nightmares. Alterations in recurrent dreams are another possible manifestationof this issue. If something like this does place, it is likely an indication that your brain is reviewing information.

Feeling Emotionally Sensitive

During the EMDR sessions, you may have a heightened sensitivity to your feelings. Staying with a painful memory may be exhausting and might cause you to be more sensitive to your feelings; therefore, it is important to ensure that you get enough rest and that you take care of yourself as required.
Woman Leaning at the Table
Woman Leaning at the Table

The Dangers Of EMDR Therapy False Memories

The potential for false memories is one of the dangers and difficulties that come with EMDR, as it does with many other therapeutic approaches. When a patient receiving EMDR therapy starts to recall specifics or events that may not have happened or may have been twisted over time, this can lead to false memories.
This phenomenon may produce confusion, anguish, and a skewed perception of reality since it can result in the insertion of false or invented memories into a person's account of their experience.
Although the exact causes of false memories in EMDR treatment are unknown, it is possible that the therapy's intensive attention on painful memories and the application of bilateral stimulation methods are to blame. It is essential that the client and the therapist are aware of this risk and proceed cautiously while beginning EMDR therapy.
When evaluating the integrity of the memories that surface during therapy and distinguishing between true and perhaps false memories, EMDR-trained therapists should exercise caution. Additionally, clients should be made aware of the potential for false memories and encouraged to talk about any reservations they may have about their memories.
Even while EMDR treatment has a lot to offer, the possibility of false memories makes it even more crucial to work with skilled, morally-minded therapists who can handle these difficulties and make sure the therapy is as safe and successful as possible.

Tips For Getting Started With EMDR Therapy

There are a few considerations you should make before beginning eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy.

Find A Qualified Therapist

The first thing you need to do is look for a therapist who is both certified and experienced in EMDR treatment. This is essential because you need to make sure that you are collaborating with somebody who has the appropriate level of training.

Be Prepared For EMDR Therapy

The following stage is to get ready for your EMDR treatment session. This requires you to be open and honest with your therapist about the traumatic experience you had as well as the goals you have for treatment. Additionally, it involves being willing to put in the effort necessary to digest the traumatic experience.
Close Up of a Woman Crying
Close Up of a Woman Crying

EMDR Therapy Is Not Suitable For Everyone

Certain people are not good candidates for EMDR therapy. It's possible that EMDR treatment isn't the best option for you if you aren't ready to confront the traumatic experience you've had. Before beginning treatment, it would be beneficial for you to discuss any problems that you currently have with your therapist.

Dangers Of Emdr Therapy - FAQs

Is It Common To Cry During EMDR?

Anger and sadness are among the many emotions that most people feel.

What Happens When EMDR Goes Wrong?

Sometimes, deep feelings like grief, anger, or terror, as well as bodily sensations connected to the traumatic event, might be triggered by EMDR.

Can EMDR Cause Nightmares?

Sometimes EMDR therapy results in nightmares, mainly when processing painful memories is part of the treatment.


Although there are worries regarding the dangers of EMDR therapy, it's critical to stress that EMDR is a valid, research-based therapeutic strategy that has a proven track record of success in treating trauma and related illnesses. The therapist's experience and training are crucial to guaranteeing both its efficacy and safety.
When used by a trained practitioner, EMDR may be very helpful in lessening the emotional toll that traumatic events have on a person and fostering recovery. Dispelling rumors and false beliefs, it's critical to acknowledge that EMDR can help those in need find comfort and healing, enhancing mental health for a large number of people.
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Suleman Shah

Suleman Shah

Suleman Shah is a researcher and freelance writer. As a researcher, he has worked with MNS University of Agriculture, Multan (Pakistan) and Texas A & M University (USA). He regularly writes science articles and blogs for science news website and open access publishers OA Publishing London and Scientific Times. He loves to keep himself updated on scientific developments and convert these developments into everyday language to update the readers about the developments in the scientific era. His primary research focus is Plant sciences, and he contributed to this field by publishing his research in scientific journals and presenting his work at many Conferences. Shah graduated from the University of Agriculture Faisalabad (Pakistan) and started his professional carrier with Jaffer Agro Services and later with the Agriculture Department of the Government of Pakistan. His research interest compelled and attracted him to proceed with his carrier in Plant sciences research. So, he started his Ph.D. in Soil Science at MNS University of Agriculture Multan (Pakistan). Later, he started working as a visiting scholar with Texas A&M University (USA). Shah’s experience with big Open Excess publishers like Springers, Frontiers, MDPI, etc., testified to his belief in Open Access as a barrier-removing mechanism between researchers and the readers of their research. Shah believes that Open Access is revolutionizing the publication process and benefitting research in all fields.
Han Ju

Han Ju

Hello! I'm Han Ju, the heart behind World Wide Journals. My life is a unique tapestry woven from the threads of news, spirituality, and science, enriched by melodies from my guitar. Raised amidst tales of the ancient and the arcane, I developed a keen eye for the stories that truly matter. Through my work, I seek to bridge the seen with the unseen, marrying the rigor of science with the depth of spirituality. Each article at World Wide Journals is a piece of this ongoing quest, blending analysis with personal reflection. Whether exploring quantum frontiers or strumming chords under the stars, my aim is to inspire and provoke thought, inviting you into a world where every discovery is a note in the grand symphony of existence. Welcome aboard this journey of insight and exploration, where curiosity leads and music guides.
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