The potential role of EMDR on trauma in affective disorders: A narrative review


Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a psychotherapeutic approach that has originally been developed to treat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Recently it has been suggested as a complementary therapy in a wide range of clinical conditions. In particular, affective disorders as bipolar disorder (BD) and major depressive disorder (MDD) have a higher lifetime prevalence of traumatic or stressful life events (SLEs) compared to the general population, which makes them good candidates for the application of EMDR.

A bibliographic search on PUBMED, Scopus, and ScienceDirect of studies applying EMDR to people with a primary diagnosis of bipolar disorder (BD) and major depressive disorder (MDD) (with or without a comorbid PTSD) was conducted.

Literature search retrieved 15 studies, of which 3 were focused on BD and 12 on MDD. Overall, they suggest EMDR as an effective tool in reducing trauma-related but also manic and depressive symptoms, with few effect sides and high adherence rates. Limitations Few small studies exist with heterogeneous and not gold-standard methodology, especially for BD.

Overall, retrieved studies can be considered as first attempts at investigating the applicability of EMDR in affective disorders. Although far to be conclusive, preliminary evidence suggests EMDR as a useful adjunctive approach in the treatment of BD and MDD, especially when other treatments have failed. It is now the time to implement such trauma-focused therapy to larger samples of patients using more rigorous methods.






Cinzia Perlini
Valeria Donisi
Maria Gloria Rossetti
Chiara Moltrasio
Marcella Bellani
Paolo Brambilla

Original Work Citation

Perlini, C., Donsi, V., Rosetti, M. G., Moltrasio, C., Bellani, M., & Brambilla, P. (2020, May). The potential role of EMDR on trauma in affective disorders: A narrative review. Journal of Affective Disorders, 269(15). doi:10.1016/j.jad.2020.03.001


“The potential role of EMDR on trauma in affective disorders: A narrative review,” Francine Shapiro Library, accessed March 9, 2021,

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