Approaching CHRONIC ILLNESS – Find Hope Through EMDR
Chronic Illness can cause frustration, pain, discomfort, and fatigue, and can interfere with your goals and daily life in countless ways. Chronic illness can also be disabling, making it hard to work full-time or part-time. Illnesses can be physical, emotional, or both.
We encourage all who have chronic illness to become aware of the way trauma can play a roll in chronic illness, no matter what illness(es) you have. This has been made very clear and has been well documented by the Kaiser ACES Study.
Two Kaiser psychiatrists in San Diego, CA commented to each other that their patients with the most bad experiences in childhood tended to have the most chronic health issues. They wondered if they had a unique group of patients, or if this was a general truth.
Their research, one of the biggest longitudinal studies in history, has followed 17,000 Kaiser patients for more than 20 years. The results of their research were dramatic. In medical terms, there is a “dose-response relationship” between the numbers of “Adverse Childhood Experiences” (ACES) a person lived through and the number of chronic health diagnoses they have. In plain English, this means that the more kinds of bad experiences you went through as a kid, the more chronic health problems you will have.
This is very sad news, but since EMDR therapy was developed and has been proven by a wealth of quality research to help people overcome bad experiences, there is also much HOPE.
What ARE some of the common ACES? Verbal abuse, emotional abuse, physical abuse, the insecurity that comes from divorcing parents, a mentally ill parent or an addicted parent, and others. Interestingly, Dr. Fidalio, one of the ACES researchers, reported that the most harmful of all the ACES categories is NOT physical abuse, NOT sexual abuse. Research shows it is emotional or verbal abuse. This is the one onlookers tend to minimize. Sometimes even those who are emotionally abused minimize it. Emotional abuse hurts your view of yourself.
To learn more about the Kaiser Report and the 10 ACES categories, please link to our
article about the Kaiser ACES Study
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Please also read our page about Chronic Pain, to see how EMDR is proven to help pain that is related to memory/experience, whether we remember the experience or not.
Likewise, many therapists and clients have reported that as they clear a history of traumas, their fibromyalgia/irritable bowel syndrome/chronic fatigue, etc. seems to calm down, or go into a remission. One client was tempted to cancel her therapy appointment due to a severe asthma attack. But she was very eager to have her session, so her husband drove her to the therapist. Her therapist asked her if she wanted to process this attack or the first asthma attack she could remember with EMDR. She chose the first. As that memory got desensitized, she realized “my asthma attack is over – usually it would last for hours!” She was shocked that it could be over in less than 50 minutes.
In EMDR terms, symptoms of any of your chronic illnesses become a trigger for the full memories of your first or worst episodes with the illness, or a similar issue. Or, it may trigger memories of family or medical people treating you insensitively, blaming you for your problems, or being rough during a treatment procedure, hurting you. Your body can go into a trauma response. Fear of the full set of symptoms can arise. This activates cortisol and/or adrenaline, the stress chemicals, and increases tension, and then increases symptoms. Some people even go into a PTSD state. (See PTSD).
In EMDR processing, we find it very powerful to treat repeating traumas (such as ongoing child abuse, or an ongoing medical condition) by treating the first memory, the worst, and the most recent. This can help to calm an entire issue that has been hard for you. And it can help you get into a much more positive attitude about yourself, spontaneously and naturally, as you desensitize the trauma. People often exclaim, “It wasn’t my fault! My parents/the doctor had a problem and couldn’t give me the care I needed.” Or, “I deserve good care now.” Or, “I was helpless then, but I can help myself now.”
CBT can help you to the same beliefs. But EMDR seems to help you know the belief is true in every fiber of your being. It is not just a cognitive exercise you have to keep on repeating. Your sense of self-esteem and self-respect become strong, genuine, natural, and spontaneous. This is what makes it a joy to be an EMDR therapist. We can watch people blossom and heal in front of us, or hear their reports of new progress that happens in between sessions.
To find a therapist who can help with chronic issues that may be related to your negative and bad experiences from childhood, please go to FIND A THERAPIST and choose your region. Looking at the list of cities below the Region Name, scroll down to ISSUES and click on Chronic Illness to find the specialists who treat Chronic Illness in your community. This Directory only lists the highest trained EMDR therapists of any EMDR directory we know of. We list fully EMDRIA Certified EMDR therapists.
If we do not yet serve your community, please go to
click on FIND A THERAPIST
type in your ZIP CODE
select EMDRIA CERTIFIED EMDR THERAPIST
and call the therapists to see who has an opening for you and which ones feel comfortable treating the issues that concern you most.