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Efficacy of the eye movement desensitization procedure in the treatment of traumatic memories

Abstract

The aim of the study was to determine the effectiveness of the recently developed Eye Movement Desensitization (EMD) procedure on traumatic memory symptomatology. Twenty-two subjects suffering from symptoms related to traumatic memories were used in the study. All had been victims of traumatic incidents concerning the Vietnam War, childhood sexual molestation, sexual or physical assault, or emotional abuse. Memories of the traumatic incident were pivotal to the presenting complaints which included intrusive thoughts, flashbacks, sleep disturbances, low self-esteem, and relationship problems. Dependent variables were (1) anxiety level, (2) validity of a positive self-statement/assessment of the traumatic incident, and (3) presenting complaints. These measures were obtained at the initial session and at 1- and 3-month follow-up sessions. The results of the study indicated that a single session of the EMD procedure successfully desensitized the subjects' traumatic memories and dramatically altered their cognitive assessments of the situation, effects that were maintained through the 3-month follow-up check. This therapeutic benefit was accompanied by behavioral shifts which included the alleviation of the subjects' primary presenting complaints.

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Shapiro, F. Efficacy of the eye movement desensitization procedure in the treatment of traumatic memories. J Trauma Stress 2, 199–223 (1989). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00974159

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Key words

  • memories
  • trauma
  • desensitization
  • PTSD
  • anxiety
  • rape/molestation
  • combat