Treatment Of Ocd Using Emdr Therapy

This is how EMDR intervention helps treat Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder.

Treating OCD Using EMDR Therapy

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, usually abbreviated as OCD, is a complex psychological disorder that is expressed through two phases, as its name suggests: obsessions, on the one hand, and compulsions, on the other.

This mixture of elements usually means that those who develop their symptoms do not even know where to start when trying to combat this psychopathology, which is one of the indications that professional help is always necessary to treat it.

Luckily, there are now useful therapeutic tools to combat OCD and return the lives of those who suffer from it to normal. In this article we will talk about one of these intervention models: EMDR therapy applied to the treatment of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder.

What is Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder?

OCD is a disorder in which a kind of vicious cycle occurs. First, a thought or mental image appears in the person’s consciousness (sometimes a memory, sometimes a fanciful exaggeration of the present, sometimes an imagined situation about what could happen) that disturbs him and generates a sudden high degree of discomfort, usually in the form of distress or anxiety.

This mental content is what is known as obsession, because the person tries to expel it from his consciousness at all costs and, at the same time, that urgency causes his attention to be fixed on this thought or image. As we will see, the nature of the compulsion is very important in understanding why EMDR therapy is used to treat OCD.

Second, the person with OCD begins to desperately search for ways to get rid of this discomfort as soon as possible, to put that disturbing image or idea out of their consciousness. And in order to put an end to this experience, she performs a certain action that is apparently arbitrary, but whose meaning is more or less linked to that mental content that makes her feel bad. This kind of ritual is what is known as compulsion.

Let’s take an example: a person remembers that a week ago he made a fool of himself in front of someone he likes, and because of this he cannot help but start thinking about it again and again, recalling the event in an increasingly exaggerated way. As this causes him anguish and he cannot stop thinking about it, because he feels “contaminated” by this event, the person washes his hands repeatedly, always following a pattern of movements from which he cannot get out, since he does not comply with this self-wash rule. it would not end the discomfort.

Over time, the person learns that every time he feels bad, he must perform such a ritual, and at the same time, this predisposition to give great importance to disturbing thoughts will make them appear often in his mind. Because of this, the problem is getting bigger and bigger: not only do you waste a lot of time because you need to perform compulsions, but also your health (specifically, your skin) is affected and you have to interrupt many important tasks during day to day, since these small crises last several minutes.

What is the treatment of OCD with EMDR based on?

As we have seen, OCD is a psychopathology that is related to a kind of superstitious thinking, according to which it is only possible to get rid of psychological discomfort by performing compulsions. However, it is a disorder that can develop in people that we would normally consider rational in most areas of their lives : they only apply that kind of “magic thinking” to the way they treat their compulsions.

And ultimately, doing these rituals works for immediate relief; The problem is that in the medium and long term, feeding the vicious cycle of obsessions and compulsions is a bigger problem than the discomfort of facing each of the obsessions.

With this in mind … how is EMDR therapy used? This type of psychological intervention, whose initials come from the term “Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing”, is based on the idea that many disorders linked to anxiety and anguish have their main cause in incomplete or inadequate processing of certain memories. Thus, to solve the patient’s discomfort, it is necessary to modify the way in which the brain stores these mental contents, so that they are not expressed over and over again in a problematic way.

To achieve this, a series of brain stimulation exercises are carried out that aim to make the contents that do not quite fit well with the memory system to be integrated back into the person’s mind without causing anguish. One of the ways that is used has to do with guiding the patient’s gaze in certain directions, thus achieving a differentiated stimulation in each hemisphere of the brain.

At the same time, a context is created in which the patient evokes those contents that usually cause anxiety or crisis, so that they lose their harmful effect and are treated by the brain like any other memory. In many ways, EMDR therapy resembles systematic desensitization, in that it creates a new framework in which to experience what is normally disturbing or distressing.

Looking for therapy for Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder?


If you think you may be developing the typical symptoms of OCD or have already been diagnosed with it and are seeking professional help to treat it, contact us. At Ipsia Psychology we have many years of experience offering patients of all ages the most advanced and effective forms of intervention: EMDR, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, Neurofeedback, Mindfulness, and more.

At present you can have our services either in our center located in Madrid or through the modality of online therapy by video call. On this page are our contact details.

Bibliographic references:

  • Bloch, MH; Landeros-Weisenberger, A .; Rosario, MC; Pittenger, C .; Leckman, JF (2008). “Meta-analysis of the symptom structure of obsessive-compulsive disorder”. The American Journal of Psychiatry. 165 (12): pp. 1532-1542.
  • Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders: DSM-5 (5 ed.). Washington: American Psychiatric Publishing.
  • Grant, JE (2014). Clinical practice: Obsessive-compulsive disorder. The New England Journal of Medicine. 371 (7): pp. 646-653.
  • Logie, R. (2014). EMDR – more than just a therapy for PTSD ?. The Psychologist. 27 (7): pp. 512-517.
  • Shapiro, F .; Laliotis, D. (2015). EMDR Therapy for Trauma-Related Disorders. Evidence Based Treatments for Trauma-Related Psychological Disorders: A Practical Guide for Clinicians. Springer International Publishing. pp. 205 – 228.

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