Chronic Stress and EMDR

Written by guest blogger, Angela Sasseville, MA, LPC, NCC

Regardless of the cause, stress from all sources has a cumulative effect in one’s life.  Work problems, relationship issues, economic events, health concerns – they all add to the same metaphorical pile of stress.  The mind-body connection is so strong that stress begins to change the physiology of an individual.  Ongoing or long-term stressors are particularly problematic in the way that they wear an individual down over time and engrain negative patterns in the body, mind and nervous system.

People who’ve endured high levels of distress earlier in life, especially during the developmental years of childhood, are often predisposed to feeling emotionally and physically unwell during stressful periods later in life.  One of the reasons for this predisposition is the existence of well worn neurological pathways that were used previously to experience distress and anxiety on a frequent basis.  The mind and body has so much practice feeling these negative ways that being on edge becomes one’s default setting again later in life as the nervous system accesses the pathways it has utilized the most – those associated with feeling stressed.  Meanwhile, the neural pathways that help an individual access a sense of being calm and centered may be underutilized, atrophied if you will, and may be difficult to access at times.

A large and growing body of research on the effectiveness of different forms of therapy shows that holistic therapies that address the mind-body connection, such as a well-researched form of therapy called Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (or EMDR), are more effective and often more efficient than talk therapies.  That’s because clients experience greater amounts of relief when they not only get to talk about  their problems but when they also get to practice physically feeling relaxed and gain natural tools to use to lower their stress level anytime.  These body-centered therapies effectively help clients change their default settings in daily life from feeling stressed out to feeling grounded and centered.

For a personal account of what chronic stress feels like in the body and how EMDR and resourcing activities helped me to shift my default emotional setting to something more positive, see my new book Families Under Financial Stress: Tools to Support Your Relationships and Your Continual Growth.

About our guest blogger:

Psychotherapist Angela Sasseville, MA, LPC, NCC is the Director of Flourish Counseling, LLC in Denver and has received all of her EMDR training from the Maiberger Institute.  Go to or call 303-455-3767 for more information about Angela.