EMDR to treat functional neurological disorder: A review


Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy is an established treatment for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), but there is increasing evidence for its use beyond PTSD. EMDR can be effective at treating distressing memories not associated with PTSD, as well as somatic symptoms (like chronic pain), and as such could potentially be used as a treatment for patients with functional neurological disorder (FND). Searches were conducted for published peer-reviewed articles on the use of EMDR for FND. The databases selected and searched were Medline, Embase, Cochrane Library, CINAHL Plus, Web of Science, PsychINFO, PubMed, and Francine Shapiro Library. This review was conducted according to the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) statement. Three relevant articles were found. The studies included are one case series and two case studies. Of the five participants included in the studies, four experienced functional non-epileptic attacks; and one experienced functional movement disorder. Four out of the five patients were successfully treated with EMDR. EMDR is potentially a useful treatment of FND, but further research, including controlled trials, is required. The authors propose that EMDR could be useful in treating patients with FND and comorbid PTSD, as well as patients without comorbid PTSD. We discuss the clinical implications and propose how EMDR could fit into the FND treatment pathway.






Sarah R. Cope
Lucy Mountford
Jared G. Smith
Niruj Agrawal

Original Work Citation

Cope, S. R., Mountford, L., Smith, J. G., & Agrawal, N. (2018). EMDR to treat functional neurological disorder: A review. Journal of EMDR Practice and Research, 12(3), 118-131. doi:10.1891/1933-3196.12.3.118



“EMDR to treat functional neurological disorder: A review,” Francine Shapiro Library, accessed December 3, 2020, https://emdria.omeka.net/items/show/25492.

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