PTSD is a psychiatric disorder that can happen after a very negative experience or witnessing life-threatening and traumatic events, such as abuse in childhood, assault from a spouse, natural disasters, terrorist events, major accidents or military incidents. It is estimated that about 6% of Americans will experience PTSD at some point due to a traumatic event. 

At the same time, more than 20 million American adults struggle with addiction to drugs or alcohol. Many people struggling with PTSD end up self-medicating with drugs or alcohol, inevitably leaving them with mental health and addiction issues.

In fact, mental health issues and addiction are often intertwined. The good news is that those suffering from PTSD and/or addiction have many options to help overcome their problems. While traditional therapy and medication management are often prescribed and proven effective, a newer form of treatment is emerging, known as eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR).

What Is EMDR?

EMDR is a relatively new, unconventional form of psychotherapy that is gaining popularity, especially for those who struggle with addiction or mental health disorders like PTSD, which are often connected.

Research continues on the effectiveness of EMDR. This type of treatment involves a therapist moving their fingers back and forth in front of a patient’s face while the patient follows the fingers with their eyes. While the patient is following the therapist’s fingers, the patient will be asked to think back to an event in the past, which is usually what may have sparked PTSD, addiction or any other mental health or substance use disorder.

Rather than relying on traditional talk therapy or pharmaceutical medications to deal with addiction and mental health issues, EMDR is based on a patient’s rapid eye movements, which are said to lessen the effect of bad memories of past events that may be linked to substance abuse or mental health issues.

How Does EMDR Work?

EMDR therapy is based on brain functionality called adaptive information processing or AIP. The AIP model explains that memories not stored functionally in the brain can lead to mental disorders such as:

  • PTSD
  • Chronic pain
  • Addiction
  • Other mental health disorders 

The AIP model states that the human brain processes memories without issue for the most part. However, when this process does not happen normally, someone may be unable to cope with these memories and the emotions related to them. 

Can You Use EMDR for Addiction?

Those who struggle with addiction and seek treatment often go into drug rehab with a history of trauma. Essentially, EMDR for addiction is designed to help painful memories eventually disappear, which will inevitably help patients beat their dependence on drugs or alcohol.

EMDR can help greatly in codependent addiction and trauma treatment. EMDR has the potential to relieve patients of their awful memories and reduce the incidence and severity of negative emotions related to their trauma. As this takes place, overcoming addiction can be easier due to better emotional regulation of painful memories. 

Substance Use and Trauma

Substance abuse and trauma have been found to have a high link to one another. The National Survey of Adolescents found that teens with a history of trauma were three times more likely to have or have had a substance abuse issue than those who did not experience trauma. 

There is also a higher risk of developing a substance abuse disorder (SUD) with a history of trauma due to using substances to self-medicate and alleviate the symptoms of a traumatic experience.

Finding EMDR Treatment

If you or a loved one is struggling with substance abuse disorder or substance abuse related to trauma, it may be time to seek professional help. The Recovery Village at Palmer Lake is a facility that specializes in addiction treatment and offers EMDR treatment.

With a staff of medical professionals, many treatment options such as inpatient and outpatient settings, and after-care planning, Palmer Lake is a great place to start a journey to recovery. Reach out to a Recovery Advocate at The Recovery Village at Palmer Lake today for more information. 

Veteran Recovery Is Our Mission

Our facilities have helped thousands of veterans overcome a drug or alcohol addiction. At The Recovery Village Palmer Lake, our treatment programs offer veterans:

  • Veteran Advocates who can navigate the VA on your behalf to enter treatment faster
  • Dual diagnosis to treat addiction and mental health disorders together  
  • EMDR, a revolutionary treatment that alleviates trauma symptoms
Editor – Theresa Valenzky
Theresa Valenzky graduated from the University of Akron with a Bachelor of Arts in News/Mass Media Communication and a certificate in psychology. She is passionate about providing genuine information to encourage and guide healing in all aspects of life. Read more
Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village at Palmer Lake aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.