Depression and Bipolar Depression


Approaching Depression:  Major and Bipolar–EMDR Therapy Brings Hope to Stress-related Depression

Recent evidence by neuroscientists indicate that depression is caused by stressful events that cause micro-injuries in the brain.  This results in an inflammation response.  It is well known that stressful experiences are often what bring on bipolar depression.

For more information about this, link to an article in this website about

the findings of Karen Wager-Smith, PhD and Athina Markou, PhD

If stress does seem to be an instigator or contributor to your depression, EMDR has been proven helpful for stressful or traumatic events and the depression that goes along with them.  By “processing” these experiences through the EMDR therapy protocol, the negative memories, self-beliefs, emotions and physical sensations are desensitized.   They gradually become less upsetting and feel less significant.  Positive conclusions about yourself become stronger, spontaneously, through the EMDR processing.

An EMDR stage of the Early Protocol is called “Emotional Circuit Clearing.”  It helps people become acquainted with the life-preserving or life-enhancing purposes of the emotions.  This is a protocol that every person could benefit from.  It can be especially valuable for depressed persons.  Learn how it helped one woman in this brief video:

There is research to indicate that stress-caused depression responds well to EMDR, but more research is needed.  More research attention is going in this direction, so the next few years will be very important in shedding more light on this area.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) has also been demonstrated to help depression.  If, however, you have tried it and it hasn’t worked, EMDR is an alternative well worth trying.  In general, psychotherapy has been shown to work better than meds for depression.  It should be included in any treatment plan for depression.


Dr. Wager-Smith, in the above-linked article, gives information about three meta-analysis of anti-depressant research.  The important conclusion about this research is that medications can be life-saving for severe depression.  Additionally, the three studies reviewing all the research on the topic found that there is not good evidence that medications help with mild or moderate depression. 

Medications have, however, been demonstrated to help bipolar depression significantly and be life-saving for that condition.  More about bipolar disorder below.

Sadly, some people find the side-effects of anti-depressants to be depressing themselves.  They rebel against “medication compliance.”  Others keep trying for the best medication, or combination of medications for their constitution.  The best solution for severe depression will give fewer side-effects and more help getting back to your strengths.  In that case, meds can be a short-cut to healing, and a help when you balance it with psychotherapy.  EMDR therapy for stress- or trauma-based depression can get at the underlying roots of depression.  Then depression can be eliminated or at least greatly reduced, with good self-care skills in place to cope when a depression does come.  EMDR can also be used to focus on what you find stressful or traumatic about your medications.  This can help you to tolerate them better.

Good Self-Care and Learning New Skills

Just as we need for healing from any kind of condition, making our own self care a priority is very important in healing depression.  Some options to consider:

$1    1.     Understand how stress and trauma affect us.  Read Getting Past Your Past by Francine Shapiro, PhD.  Dr. Shapiro is the originator of EMDR.  She published the first research about it.  This book is a self-help book that may give you some techniques to help you right away.  We EMDR therapists find that people who have read or are reading this book seem to require less sessions of treatment.  They are already doing “resourcing techniques” that connect them with their strengths.

$1    2,     If you feel you cannot do anything, and just want to lie in bed, according to Karen Wager-Smith, that is natural.  Your brain is going through an inflammation response, producing sickness behaviors.  If we respect our need to rest, it is wise.  You might try an added help for restorative sleep by using an “Earthing sheet.”  It gives you the benefit of grounding.  After sleeping well, you may now feel like exercising is possible.  Exercise helps to clear toxins from the body through sweat and deep breathing. It is actually a “bilateral stimulation” for the brain which helps it become more optimal, similar to various EMDR methods of bilateral stimulation, helping the brain to heal itself.  See article by psychiatrist Tracy Latz, MD on the value of grounding:

How Earthing Helps Her Patients

3.   A good diet that includes dark leafy greens, quality protein, plenty of fruits and vegetables, and ample pure water helps you feel better by meeting your nutritional needs in a balanced way.

4.      Get a medical evaluation with a good internist to see if you may have a Thyroid problem.  This can be a hidden cause of depression and energy problems.  Other possible physical causes:  If you have taken stimulant drugs such as cocain or amphetamines, the crash from those can drop people into a very low (dorsal vagal) state. Ecstacy and amphetamines deplete serotonin in the brain, creating an inability to feel good.  The doctor shouls also look for these potential contributors:  hormone issues (hypothyroid as mentioned above; low testosterone, or other insufficient hormones), underlying low-grade infections, nutritional imbalances, especially vitamin D deficiency, extremely low blood pressure, chronic injury or pain that may create either a body-wide inflammatory response, creating depression or an endogenous opitate reaction that mimics/creates depression, any signs of tumors in the brain, glands, or any place that could cause a depressive response, any systemic inflammatory diseases not listed previously.1

5.      Naturopathic Doctors are medical doctors with additional training in the digestive system and natural solutions to health problems, including depression.  Their thorough evaluations may help to uncover another physical contributor to your depression.

6.     If you live in a climate or work in a setting where you don’t get enough light, you may have SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder).  In that case, purchase lights that can give you the light you need for a better mood.  Google “lights for Seasonal Affective Disorder.”

7.     A regular Yoga practice can be helpful in overcoming moods.  See Yoga for Depression by Amy Weintraub for more info.  


Bipolar Disorder

bipolar 350Bipolar Disorder was historically called Manic-Depression.  It implies moving from the highs of mania (high energy excitement that can be impulsive and rather chaotic) to the lows of depression.  The brain scan of bipolar disorder at left is found in Daniel Amen’s “Brain Atlas.” It helps to understand how a person could get excited intensely about one thing, and not be able to keep the focus going.  These overactive areas are separate, not connected to each other.

Building a Better Support System

Many people with depression report feeling isolated – because they have become isolated, gradually making choices that remove themselves from others.  Bowen Family Systems Theory calls this pattern of behavior “distance” or “emotional cutoff.”  It is highly associated with depression.   But the good news is it gives a natural antidote: connection.  This will feel odd, awkward, and “not right” at first, but give it a try.  

If there are very difficult people to connect with, try connecting with other relatives of that person.  This can give new sources of relationship as you get curious about them and their life.  Sometimes the “difficult person(s)” get curious about you and your new relationships with these relatives.  It can gradually bring profound changes.  More about this vast subject can be found in a book called “Emotional Cutoff” by Peter Titleman, PhD.  It is written both for the public and for therapists.  There are fascinating case examples plus 3 therapists who share their own struggles with depression.  They describe how making relationship changes made a huge difference for them.  

At first, you may just try a little effort to connect with someone daily or at least every other day, or once a week, if that is all you can do at first.  It will make a major difference in overcoming depression, or coping with it when it speaks to you.  In fact, Bowen found connection alone helps to inoculate against stress.  It is recommended as essential to health and well-being to every person on the planet – not just those with depression.

How to Overcome Distance. 

Connect with people, let them know you will need some added support, and ask for specific little things.  Eye contact with caring people has been proven to help with depression.  So get together with kind, understanding people you trust pretty well.  Examples of support you might ask for: 

                          a.     Remind me of some of my strengths.

b.     Remind me of some of our good times.

c.      Let’s go to nature together, mountains, desert, ocean, etc.

d.     Go for a walk, hike or bike ride together.

e.     Let’s cook together.

f.      Will you garden with me?

g.     Are you the kind of friend I can ask to do laundry or clean together?

h.     Please pray for me.  (Research has proven that it helps, even if those who are prayed for don’t know that people who don’t know them are praying for them on the other side of the world.)

We wish you very well in healing from depression, restoring your strengths, gaining confidence and hope, one step at a time.  We EMDR therapists know it is possible.  We see it happening in our offices.  And our clients often report the progress they made in the past week.

This website lists EMDR therapists with the highest credentials of any EMDR directory.  All have been EMDRIA-Certified.  Thus, they give you the benefit of the full EMDR protocol..  Research has proven that the best results come from the dedication to the full eight-phase EMDR protocol. 

To Find our Depression Specialists:

Please click on FIND A THERAPIST, select your region.  Note the list of cities that forms under the region.  Scan down the list to ISSUES at the bottom.  Click on ISSUES and then scan the list to find DEPRESSION.  Choose from the Depression Specialists near you. 

If we do not yet serve your community, please go to, FIND A THERAPIST, and type in your zip code and click on CERTIFIED EMDR THERAPIST.


1From Robin Shapiro’s contribution to “Case Consultation: Unremitting Depression” in Journal of EMDR Practice and Research, Volume 7, Number 1, 2013, pp 39-44.