Anxiety, Trauma, EMDR - Dr. Christo Franklin


Different people experience anxiety or traumatic reactions in different ways with different symptoms. For example, you might experience anxiety as a mental activity such as thinking through the same problem, over and over, without making any progress. In other words you might be worrying continually and cannot stop worrying simply by deciding not to. And you notice that it is worse when there is nothing else to distract you, like when you are trying to fall asleep.

For others, the symptoms are different. They might be more emotional, like fear or dread. And for others, the symptoms might be predominantly physical sensations, like a tightness in your chest or pit in your stomach.

And it’s not just the symptoms but also what triggers the symptoms that makes a big difference in how it should be treated. For example, panic attacks might seem to come out of the blue, whereas some post-traumatic stress symptoms might only happen when you are exposed to something that reminds you of the traumatic event.

Different problems need different solutions. Dr. Franklin can offer you evidence-based solutions and advise you whether you might benefit from consultation with other kinds of experts like a psychiatrist (if you are interested in medication) or a registered dietitian (if you want to include a nutritional approach).

What is EMDR? And why do people like it?

Originally, in 1989, EMDR (as it would later be called) began as a treatment just for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Since then, EMDR has since been found effective for a wider variety of problems, not just combat PTSD — and not even just for other types of PTSD but a variety of other types of problems. What these different kinds of problems have in common is the role of distressing experiences; there was a negative experience that continues to negatively affect you…maybe long after it happened. Researchers are reporting positive outcomes when using EMDR to treat other sorts of problems such as some forms of depression, grief, anger management problems, public speaking nervousness, addiction, and more.

Some people prefer EMDR to other kinds of talk therapy because it does not require extensive talking about the details of terrible experience — such as abuse or sexual assault — in order to benefit. And for that reason, many people choose this kind of therapy or choose to include it as part of their regular talk therapy.

Basically, EMDR begins with teaching you how to soothe your nervous system’s anxious arousal. Between sessions you practice doing soothing techniques, and just as you notice that a habit of exercising causes your body to change positively, consistently practicing these soothing techniques causes your nervous system to change positively. Then, during sessions, we use a technique that keeps you simultaneously focused on the present moment and able to think about the past event. (You do not have to talk about your memories of the past event, just know which past event it is that you are thinking about.)

By keeping you in this state, it seems that the memory for the event is reprocessed, seemingly moved from the part of the memory where upsetting memories are stored and relocated to another part of the brain where memories are not upsetting. Thus, at the end of the process, you are still able to remember the upsetting experience, but it no longer upsets you — just like you can remember what you had for breakfast yesterday but you probably do not have any associated emotional upset when you think about it. Plus, the previously upsetting memories no longer intrude into your current thoughts without your wanting them to, and you’ll notice that the things, people, and places you might have been avoiding because they brought back distressing feelings aren’t such an issue anymore.

So if you are having problems with anxiety or trauma, let’s do an evaluation. After evaluating what kind of problems you are having, I can offer you treatment options and a description of how we might proceed. Then you can decide what feels like the right choice for you.