EMDR and personality disorders


Over the last few years, causal relationships between childhood traumatic experiences and the development of personalities have been increasingly discussed. An understanding of personality disorders as a consequence of attachment trauma creates new therapeutic approaches for patients who are considered difficult to treat, though urgently in need of therapy.

First of all, the workshop will present an overview of possible neurobiological causes responsible for evolutionary principles of specific patterns of experiencing and behaviour in personality disorders. Most of their features can be explained as being natural reactions to extreme traumatic stress: unresolved traumatic experiences that cannot be encoded chronologically are, to a varying degree, subjectively experienced as separated from the personality. Other features of personality disorders, such as emotion regulation and mentalization function, can be understood as being a consequence of attachment trauma as well.

Following this, a treatment conception will be presented that combines elements from trauma therapies with aspects of a psychodynamic understanding of attachment relationships. Among others, the problems of personality-disordered patients related to regulating closeness and distance, resulting from their fears of intimacy and abandonment, will be addressed. Finally, the implications of the discussed topics for EMDR treatment will be considered.






Helga Matthess
Wolfgang Woller

Original Work Citation

Matthess, H., & Woller, W. (2010, June). EMDR and personality disorders. Preconference presentation at the 11th EMDR Europe Association Conference, Hamburg, Germany



“EMDR and personality disorders,” Francine Shapiro Library, accessed June 14, 2021, https://emdria.omeka.net/items/show/19549.

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