EMDR and medically unexplained symptoms
Written by listed counsellor/psychotherapist: Angela Collinge
11th May, 20180 Comments
Medically unexplained symptoms are usually ongoing problems which cannot be explained by a clear medical condition. They include the following;
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
- Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.
- Chronic headache.
These issues can be related to trauma, often in childhood, sometimes as a pre-verbal child and can also be related to trauma as an adult.
EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitisation Reprocessing) is a therapeutic method which was originally developed to treat trauma by using bilateral stimulation to process events which encourages the brain to use adaptive information processing. This then allows the brain to reconsolidate the information, thus removing threat and fear. It is now used to treat a variety of psychological issues.
The Adverse Childhood Experiences Study has found evidence of major issues, both psychological and physical, that are likely to result from trauma in childhood. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Fibromyalgia and chronic headaches fall into this category.
The physical pain from these problems is real but no medical explanation can be found. The pain may effect all walks of life, with people’s focus often being on how to get through the day without increased pain. Coping on a day to day basis with the negative emotions that this can induce can be extremely difficult.
Once organic symptoms have been ruled out, a history of pain symptoms and experiences can be taken. From this, other mental health and physical symptoms may become apparent and trigger events from around the time of the onset of pain issues can be identified. It is often the case that trigger events have happened in the months leading up to the onset of medically unexplained symptoms and to the person involved they may appear to be totally unrelated.
Once a full history has been taken and any appropriate neurological investigations have been carried out, then it may be useful to look into the possibility of known or forgotten trauma/s having an impact on physical health. This is where therapeutic interventions can play a part in improving quality of life.
About the author
I have been working in mental health for 23 years and as time has gone on I have specialised more in trying to get to the route causes of problems. This still means setting measurable goals and undertaking outcome measures at every session so that progress can be measured and we can ascertain if action is being taken towards desired goals.
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