Part 2: What Are the Potential Side Effects of EMDR Therapy?

Maybe you’ve been researching EMDR therapy, and you’re considering booking a session. Or perhaps you’ve already gone ahead and scheduled your very first EMDR appointment. While the potential benefits sparked your interest in this approach to treatment, you have some questions about the possible side effects, too.

It’s normal to feel concerned about some of the downsides that can come with EMDR therapy. Although many people see dramatic improvements in their symptoms and their overall quality of life as a result of EMDR, educating yourself about some of the side effects can help you protect your emotional well-being throughout the process. Here are a few side effects that some people experience during or after EMDR sessions.

Emotional Distress

Any form of therapy that involves focusing on past trauma and associated sensations can inevitably provoke a certain level of emotional distress. Although EMDR comes as a relief for those who do not want to delve into details about their trauma in talk therapy, it still necessitates turning your attention toward your traumatic experiences. Naturally, this can bring up some complex emotions. It’s normal to feel upset or irritable after an EMDR session. Feeling sad in the midst of a session is fairly typical as well. There is no “wrong” way to feel throughout the healing process. You can always share these feelings with your therapist as you move through sessions.

Fatigue

After a therapy session of any kind, it’s common to feel tired and experience physical and emotional fatigue. EMDR is no exception. After all, you’ve just dedicated your time to processing experiences of trauma that you may have tried to suppress for years. Once your session is complete, you might want nothing more than to take a nap. Therapy can drain your energy temporarily. But in the long run, this investment of time and energy is worth it.

photo of a man sitting on a couch in a therapy office

Physical Ailments

When you leave an EMDR therapy session, you might notice that you have a headache or a stomachache. Our mental health and physical health are undeniably connected. Therefore, you might notice the effects of processing your trauma lingering in your physical body. You may want to talk to your therapist if you experience this side effect, as they can help you better process these sensations during sessions.

Revisiting Traumatic Memories

While you will not have to discuss your traumatic memories out loud in-depth during EMDR sessions, you will have to revisit these moments internally. Your therapist will make every effort to avoid re-traumatizing you, and you will not have to focus on these moments for long. But as you choose memories and associated beliefs to target, you may find that your thoughts stay focused on these moments after your session. You might even have dreams about your past. This is another side effect to bring up to your therapist. They can shift their approach to “closing out” sessions based on the way you feel afterward.

Temporary Increase in Anxiety

Once you leave an EMDR session, you might feel slightly more anxious than usual. People who struggle with generalized anxiety in addition to past trauma may have noticed this side effect more frequently. It’s important to turn to techniques that can help you calm down after sessions. This includes going for walks, writing in a journal, meditating, doing yoga, or any other activity that you find soothing and comforting. Having an outlet for your anxiety is key if you’re going through EMDR.

Are you interested in learning more about EMDR therapy? You may want to take your questions to a qualified therapist. Connect with us to find out more about our EMDR therapy services.