EMDR after traumatic cardiac event


Physicians and patients see a heart condition mainly as a physical problem. However, a heart attack, for instance, is experienced by the most people, as a life threatening event. This feeling of the threat to life and limb and the feeling of the possibility of dying, causes a mental state of emergency (Jordan, 2005), which can turn into a chronic long lasting psychological trauma. Traumatized heart patients are a common problem in medicine. In Austria, more than 300,000 patients per year are hospitalised due to heart disease (Statistics Austria 2011b). Approximately 20-25% of that population suffers from a trauma (Hermann-Lingen et al., 2008). Cheung Chung (2006), found with older patients, that overall 72% felt the traumatic effect of the heart attack and 30% developed a fully distinct PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). If the trauma is not detected, there is a risk of faulty medical treatment or a medication error, with the corresponding risks for the patients and the resulting costs to the general public (Albus, 2008). Heart diseases have the potential to destroy the feeling of physical integrity and the patient is confronted with his/her own mortality. The consequence could be an adjustment disorder, PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) or another reaction to the severe mental stress (Hermann-Lingen, 2008). In the medical setting, the effects of trauma following heart disease are usually treated with medication (Heßlinger, 2002). Therapy methods on a psychological basis are still largely unknown or missing in the discussion of possible psychotherapeutic options (like Heßlinger, 2002, Jordan, 2003, Jordan, 2007). In the psychosocial field, the psychological trauma therapy has become widespread (Bradley, 2005). This is demonstrated by the amount of studies and books concerning the trauma therapy of sexual abuse (Oz, 2005), violence (Chapain, 2004), disaster (Gelbach, 2007; Jayatunge, 2008), etc. (Sachsse, 2004). Especially for the treatment of psychological trauma, the psychologist Francine Shapiro (1991), invented EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing). The efficacy of EMDR has been demonstrated in many case reports and studies (Van Etten, 1998, Bradley, 2005; Seidler, 2006). EMDR has been scientifically tested and approved, by the German Medical Association (2006), as a special method for the treatment of PTSD. In addition, there are also attempts to apply EMDR to other therapeutic problems, such as jealousy (Keenan, 2000) or chronic phantom pain (Schneider, 2007, 2008). At the beginning of this work, there were no studies on the efficacy of EMDR with traumatised heart patients after myocardial infarction. The aim of the following study is to examine the efficacy of EMDR in this patient population. First, the symptoms of PTSD are explained and it is examined how frequent it is a result of heart disease. Following, the EMDR protocol and its adaptation to heart patients are described. In the empirical part, the impact of EMDR in the therapy of traumatized heart patients is examined.






Alexander Urtz

Original Work Citation

Urtz, A. (2013). EMDR after traumatic cardiac event. Amazon Digital Services, Inc.



“EMDR after traumatic cardiac event,” Francine Shapiro Library, accessed July 9, 2020, https://emdria.omeka.net/items/show/22625.

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