Therapies for trauma-related symptoms

What are trauma-focussed therapies for people with bipolar disorder?

Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy and other trauma-focussed therapies are generally beneficial for patients with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). They are also currently being investigated in patients with other diagnoses who have had exposure to traumatic events.

EMDR therapy involves identifying past events that are causing dysfunction, identifying current circumstances that elicit distress, and desensitising internal and external triggers. During EMDR therapy, patients attend to the emotionally disturbing material in brief sequential doses while simultaneously focusing on an external stimulus, usually therapist-directed lateral eye movements. The therapist may teach the patient a variety of imagery and stress reduction techniques to use during and between sessions. When patients report no distress related to the targeted memory, they are asked to focus on a preferred positive belief instead. Over the course of treatment, patients gain insight about their stressful situations, and the associated emotional distress reduces. Other trauma-focused therapies include prolonged exposure, which involves cognitive behavioural therapy to teach people to gradually face trauma-related memories, feelings, and situations.

What is the evidence for trauma-focussed therapies?

Only one study was identified assessing people with bipolar disorder, which reported improvements in mood and trauma symptoms following EMDR compared to treatment as usual. However, this evidence is of low quality as the sample is very small (20 people).

November 2021

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Last updated at: 3:35 pm, 7th November 2021
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