How does EMDR therapy work for OCD patients?
An overview of how EMDR therapy is used for OCD cases.
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a psychopathology with an incredible ability to "infiltrate" people's daily lives without them realizing, for quite some time, that something is wrong.
Fortunately, once the psychopathology has been detected and identified as such, it is possible to overcome it through psychotherapy; after years of research in the field of psychology, effective intervention programs have been developed for all variants of this disorder.
In this article we are going to focus on one of these intervention options in cases of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder: EMDR therapy..
What is the Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder?
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, usually abbreviated as OCD, is a psychopathology that, as the name implies, includes two dysfunctional elements that feed back on each other: obsessions and compulsions..
Obsessions consist of recurrent and intrusive thoughts that, at the moment they emerge in the person's consciousness, generate profound discomfort. They can consist in memories or in scenes based on pure imagination and that have never happened (or that the person has the feeling that they could happen) and that produce anguish and associated feelings, such as guilt, shame, etc.
Compulsions, on the other hand, are patterns of behavior that the patterns of behavior that the person becomes accustomed to perform in order to alleviate the discomfort caused by the obsession. caused by the obsession and that, in some way, brings this cycle of discomfort to an end, even if only for the moment. Compulsions tend to be very structured sequences of actions that must always be performed in the same way so that the person does not feel bad at that moment and have to start over; the only change that can occur in this chain of behaviors is to add more elements, making it increasingly complex and capable of consuming effort and time.
But even if compulsions produce a sense of relief and make it possible for the obsession to "move away" from the person's mind, this does not mean that they are the solution. In the medium and long term, the fact of being involved in such a methodical and obsessive way in the mitigation of obsessions reinforces them, since we adopt a greater predisposition to attract it to our consciousness and to experience an intense emotional reaction when this occurs, which we feel that we can only remedy through compulsions.
And in this way a vicious circle dynamic is entered, which is the element that keeps this disorder "alive" over time, and even makes it become more harmful.
Fortunately, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder can be effectively treated in psychotherapy.One of the most useful therapeutic resources in this regard is EMDR therapy. Let's see how it is used in these cases.
What is EMDR therapy and how is it applied to OCD cases?
EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) therapy aims to "undo" the problematic thought pathways that we have consolidated in our brain to process certain memories. In short, it allows us to make a mental "reset" and integrate certain memories and mental contents in our memory starting from zero, and in a way that does not trigger an excessive emotional response in us.
Due to the nature of this intervention, EMDR therapy is widely used in cases of trauma (based on memories that have been "registered" in our memory in an emotionally very painful way) and also in cases of disorders such as OCD.
The reason for this is that in Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder there is a special sensitivity to the obsessions that trigger the compulsions, and by means of the intervention in EMDR it is achieved that these mental contents become something more neutral for the person.The person can let these thoughts pass to see how they go away in the same way they arrived. In other words, without leaving our memory system as it was before the onset of OCD, the contents of the obsessions are no longer able to lead the person to a phenomenon of loss of control and intense disabling emotional pain.
In addition, EMDR sessions involve the performance of tasks that from the patient's point of view are simple (although they really mobilize many psychological elements), and in fact, EMDR therapy can be applied to minors, because it is not necessary to have a great capacity for abstract thinking.
Once the therapy process is started on a weekly basis, the results appear in a few months, and are maintained once the therapy is finished.and they are maintained once the psychotherapy process is finished.
Are you looking for professional psychological assistance?
If you want to have psychotherapeutic support for OCD or other psychological disorders capable of wearing down your quality of life, contact our team of professionals and start treatment with us.
In Psicomaster we attend adults, children and adolescents individually, as well as families and couples adapting to their specific needs, and the sessions can be conducted in person at our center located in Madrid or via video call in the online modality.
(Updated at Mar 28 / 2023)