Throughout this blogsite are blogs on how addictive behaviour can be conceptualised as a disorder of emotion/stress dysregulation and emotion processing deficit.
Can EMDR act to improve these the skills in emotion regulation and help with the more successful treatment of those who suffer from addiction?
The purpose of this study (1) is to assess the effectiveness of eye movement desensitization and reprocessing therapy on the emotion regulation and emotion recognition of addicts with traumatic experience.
Addiction is a chronic and relapsing disorder which is characterized with changes in cognition, motivation and emotion [1, 2]. Long-term use of drugs… plays a decisive role in people’s mentalities and emotions [3, 4].
Coincidence of drug abuse disorder and posttraumatic stress disorder is one of the areas of great importance for the health centers .
The prevalence of PTSD among people with drug abuse who refer to health centers for treatment is about 20 to 38%  and its prevalence during lifetime has been estimated at 30-52%.
Approximately 90 percent of adverse drug users report a history of traumatic experiences (with or without a diagnosis of PTSD) [6, 7]. .
These results indicate that PTSD appears as a risk factor for the future drug abusers [5, 9, 10].
…Appropriate skills are associated with the emotion regulation, healthier relationships, employment, better academic performance and physical health. Evidences suggest that people who cannot regulate their emotional responses to daily events experience more turbulence and this turbulence or confusion can lead to drug abuse as a way to reduce the emotions.
The emotion recognition is an important factor in successful social interactions  and is significantly affected and damaged in addicts .False recognition of emotion provides a context for the social malfunctioning [11-13]. [2, 16-18].
Most of the treatments emphasize reducing the negative approaches of emotion regulation and increasing the emotion recognition in adverse drug users.
The Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Treatment (EMDR) is also a way introduced as a more effective treatment for acute stress disorder and PTSD . Evidences indicate that 22-43 percent of people with PTSD turn to drug abuse in their lifetime .
So, EMDR is effective in treatment of drug abuse especially in patients turned to drugs due to traumatic experiences and PTSD [21, 22]. . This treatment accelerates accessing and reprocessing of traumatic memories in an adapting style and helps the client’s brain release the nervous system from the past trauma through normal processing of emotional information.
Most of the people with traumatic experiences turn to drug abuse to get rid of these experiences. The EMDR helps people identify traumatic memories and treat people through reprocessing of traumatic memories and experiencesP[23, 24].
This study is conducted with the aim of examining the influence of systematic desensitization therapy and eye movement reprocessing (EMDR) on the emotion recognition and regulation of addicts with a traumatic experience.
The results indicated that the EMDR therapy is effective in increasing the positive approaches of emotion regulation and reducing negative approaches of emotion regulation. In other words, positive approaches of emotion regulation in the experimental group participated in EMDR therapy sessions have significantly increased compared with the control group.
This illustrates the effectiveness of this treatment in increasing the emotion regulation in addicts. This result is in line with other researches [23, 27, 34, 35]. It can be stated that people with traumatic experiences turn to drugs to get rid of the emotions associated with these experiences; and the required condition for maintaining the sobriety and preventing the relapse in these patients is provided through the treatment of unresolved traumas that have an essential role in maintaining drug abuse or dependence.
The EMDR therapy is realized through replacing the dysfunctional and negative beliefs related to the traumatic experiences with the healthy and positive beliefs.
…lack of adaptive ways for emotion regulation to cope with the stressful events causes addiction. The results of this research are in line with other research findings [12, 36, 37]. These results suggest that low levels of positive approaches for emotion regulation in adverse drug users is due to inability to effectively cope with and manage the emotions, particularly at the onset of drug abuse . These findings also support the Golman’s hypothesis which indicates low level of (emotion) intelligence and emotion regulation in adverse drug users.
Also, another part of the results indicated that the EMDR therapy is effective in increasing the emotion recognition of addicts. In other words, the emotion recognition rates in experimental group participated in the sessions had a significant increase compared with the control group. This result is in line with the research conducted by Marich . It can be expressed that difficulty in recognizing emotions and failure in establishing emotional relationships with others may lead to drug abuse . Also, in most cases, the difficulty in recognizing emotions and failure in establishing emotional relationships with others, that are the main characteristic of emotional disorders, can be lead to drug abuse in people .
In a study, it was concluded that adverse drug users have difficulty in identifying emotions in others. They cannot identify positive and negative emotions of others and these people have difficulty in decoding the emotions of others . The emotional processing in people addicted to alcohol and drugs is damaged and these people are in trouble in diagnosis of facial emotional expressions . ”
This study appears to demonstrating that emotion regulation and recognition improved dramatically in the addicted individuals used in this study.
Their results section (not included) showed that “EMDR therapy increases the positive approaches of emotion regulation among subjects in the experimental group compared with the control group in the post-test phase. The influence of this treatment intervention on increasing the positive approaches of emotion regulation is 87%. It means that 87% of the remaining total scores of univariate covariance is related to the impact of treatment intervention and that the influence of this treatment intervention on increasing emotion recognition is 92%. It means that 92% of the remaining total scores of univariable variance are related to the impact of treatment intervention.”
This would all suggest that EMDR may be useful not only in reprocessing trauma experiences for the past but in improving overall emotion regulation, recognition and processing skills, which may have additional profound effect on treatment and recovery outcomes long term.
- Meysami-Bonab, S., Abolghasemi, A., Sheikhian, M., Barahmand, U., & Rasooliazad, M. (2012). The Effectiveness of Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy on the Emotion Regulation and Emotion Recognition of Addicted Individuals. Zahedan Journal of Research in Medical Sciences, 14(10), 33-37.