Can EMDR therapy help with Phobias?

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is an evidence-based method for treating trauma-based issues such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). However, it can also be used to treat specific phobias. Between 9% and 16% of individuals have a phobia, but many individuals have been successfully treated for their phobia with EMDR therapy.

A phobia is an intense or irrational fear of a specific object or situation. Phobias can cause individuals to avoid the source of their phobia as the object or situation provokes immediate and intense fear or anxiety in them. The avoidance, fear, or anxiety associated with certain objects or situations can cause significant disruption to a person’s work, relationships, or general functioning.

There are five different categories for types of phobias. These include:

  • Animal Type (snakes, spiders, insects, dogs, etc.)
  • Natural/Environment Type (heights, storms, water, etc.)
  • Injury Type (needles, going to the dentist, blood, etc.)
  • Situational Type (airplanes, elevators, enclosed spaces, etc.)
  • Other Types (choking, vomiting, loud sounds, etc.)

When confronted with a phobia, individuals may experience dizziness, shortness of breath, feelings of panic, increased heart rate, nausea, and other anxiety symptoms. To avoid these symptoms, individuals avoid the feared object or situation altogether. However, this can be a problem when the object or situation is unavoidable. For example, it is necessary to go to the dentist for oral hygiene. Illness, weather changes, or encounters with animals are also unavoidable. If failed attempts to control someone’s environment are causing problems, it may be time to seek professional treatment.

As suggested earlier, EMDR is an effective treatment for phobias. EMDR treats the events in which you have encountered phobic objects or situations as unprocessed traumas, and you work through your memories to achieve an adaptive resolution. In other words, if your body is trained to identify certain objects or situations as threats, it will act accordingly–EMDR helps your body learn that the objects/situations do not have to be threatening and eliminates distressing memories of the phobia.

EMDR therapists help you connect the emotional part of your brain that feels afraid (limbic system) with the logical part of your brain that knows you are safe (prefrontal cortex).

All of the clinicians at Health for Life have extensive training in trauma-informed care, and many are certified EMDR practitioners.

Connect with our EMDR therapists here.

Or give our office a call today for a complimentary consultation at 616-200-4433.

Written by the Trauma-Informed Counseling Center of Grand Rapids


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