EMDR to Manage Anxiety

In Anxiety, EMDR, Therapy by Mary-Anne Wijting

One of my favorite techniques to use with clients is Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, or EMDR for short. This technique is best known for its impact on the aftereffects of trauma, but it is also very effective with children and adults who suffer from anxiety (see here for more information).


Anxiety can wreak havoc in our lives. We can’t think straight, we become very narrow-focused, we cannot problem solve well and we end up feeling alone and isolated. What’s worse, the more we try to avoid anxiety, the more it seems to take over.

Anxiety is a general term for a variety of disorders that cause nervousness, fear, apprehension and worry. Anxiety affects how we feel and behave. Anxiety also cause physical symptoms like headaches, muscle tension or pain. When it is severe it can even cause sweating, chest pain, shortness of breath, a sensation of choking and more.

It is helpful in therapy to identify the root of this fear. Where does it come from? Where did it start? This root is often linked to a specific incident in the past. Sometimes this event is a very vivid memory or it may have been forgotten. In some cases, the event occurred in childhood and is not clearly remembered, but the anxiety still gets triggered by seemingly unconnected situations or events.

The anxious brain

The anxious brain is easily overwhelmed and triggered resulting in symptoms of excessive worry, panic, obsessive compulsive behaviors and intrusive thoughts or phobias. The root of these symptoms is often connected to seemingly unrelated issues, which are actually at the heart of the problem.

Part of the problem with anxiety is that the brain has isolated the traumatic event from our day-to-day awareness in an attempt to shield us from the negative emotions. It’s a little like the body’s reaction when it forms an abscess – it encapsulates the infection to prevent it from spreading through the rest of the body.

EMDR to manage anxiety

The use of EMDR helps to activate memories, sensations, emotions, images and thoughts and thereby unmask the original incident or fear. It helps the brain to connect the event (the root) to the current fears, emotions and thoughts. This allows the brain to organize the old information and reprocess it into a more acceptable package resulting in diminished anxiety or fear. This process is not unlike the REM stage of sleep where the brain processes information from the day and sorts it out, discarding the non-important information. The eyes move rapidly back and forth during REM sleep, which also occurs during EMDR.

EMDR has produced positive results in many of my clients. Everyone responds to the process differently, but it often takes relatively few sessions to experience dramatic resolution of trauma or anxiety memories.

Contact me for a free counseling consultation today. My counseling practice is situated in Monterey and my contact number is 831-444-1747.

Mary-Anne Wijting, Counselor

PS: I accept payment from several insurances and payers: Aspire, Coastal, MBIPA, MHN, HMC Healthworks, Victims of Crime. Check on your insurance card under Mental Health benefits to verify what coverage you have.

Many clients pay cash for their sessions (my fee is $125 per session or lower negotiated rate in special circumstances) and then submit the superbill provided by me to their insurance for possible reimbursement. See here under the FAQ section for some more information.