Dysautonomia can be a challenging and debilitating condition, affecting daily life and causing symptoms such as fainting, fatigue, and difficulty regulating body temperature.
If you or a loved one is living with dysautonomia, you may also be struggling with the psychological impact of the condition. Fortunately, there is a type of therapy that may help.
EMDR Therapy, or Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, is a powerful treatment for a variety of mental health conditions, including PTSD and anxiety disorders. Considering that EMDR techniques involve the engagement of the parasympathetic nervous system, it turns out that they can also improve conditions related to dysfunction of the autonomic nervous system.
In this article, we’ll delve into the symptoms and causes of dysautonomia and explore how EMDR therapy can benefit individuals with this condition.
What is Dysautonomia?
Dysautonomia is defined by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) as “a disorder of autonomic nervous system (ANS) function.” It’s a group of medical conditions that affect ANS functions such as heart rate, blood pressure, digestion, and sweating.
The autonomic nervous system (ANS) is responsible for controlling a wide range of unconscious functions in the body that happen without our deliberate effort. While the specific reason for developing dysautonomia is unknown, it’s characterized by the failure of both sympathetic and parasympathetic parts of the ANS.
It’s important to note that some individuals with dysautonomia may experience a progressive decline in their symptoms over time, while others may have symptoms that fluctuate in severity.
There are about 15 identified types of dysautonomia, including postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS), multiple system atrophy (MSA), and pure autonomic failure (PAF). Each of these types has its own unique symptoms and causes. Here are the typical characteristics of these 3 types of dysautonomia:
Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS):
- Rapid heart rate with change in position (standing)
- Symptoms include lightheadedness, fainting, fatigue, headaches
- More common in young women
Multiple System Atrophy (MSA):
- Affects multiple systems including the autonomic nervous system
- Characterized by difficulty with balance, coordination, and speech problems
- Progresses to affect mobility and increase the risk of falls
Pure Autonomic Failure (PAF):
- Failure of the autonomic nervous system
- Symptoms include lightheadedness, fainting, and difficulty regulating body temperature
- More commonly affects older individuals.
Symptoms & Causes of Dysautonomia
Individuals with dysautonomia often experience symptoms such as lightheadedness, fainting, fatigue, and difficulty regulating body temperature. However, the symptoms can vary depending on the type of dysautonomia and the individual.
According to the NIH, some common symptoms include:
- Lightheadedness or fainting when standing up from a seated position
- Rapid heart rate when changing positions
- Chronic fatigue, even after adequate rest
- Chest pain as a result of rapid heart rate or changes in blood pressure
- Difficulty with balance and coordination
Dysautonomia develops when the communication between the nerves of the autonomic nervous system and the brain is disrupted. This can result in the failure of the autonomic nervous system to properly send and receive messages from the brain to other parts of the body.
However, the causes of dysautonomia are complex and can involve a variety of factors, including underlying medical conditions, genetics, and unknown factors. Considering this, it’s hard to determine one single treatment for all cases of dysautonomia. Therapy and EMDR Therapy is never a “first-line” treatment for Dysautonomia and a person should always consult their primary care physician as well as multiple specialists before engaging in EMDR therapy. Nevertheless, EMDR therapy seems to be an effective way to reduce the symptoms of certain types of dysautonomia–or more mild versions of the disorder.