Reducing stress and stress reactivity in PTSD with Eye Movement Desensitization (EMD): A Randomized Controlled Trial

Mrs Eka Susanty




Assigned to session

0.10 Mies Bouwman, 29-09-2023, 15:10 - 16:25


Complex PTSD, comorbidities, grief
Public health, prevention, early interventions
(Sub)clinical interventions or treatment (innovations)


Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is associated with abnormal HPA axis responding, and heightened stress reactivity. In our study, we examined whether eye movements (EM) as part of Eye Momevement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) would lead to lower stress reactivity and lower Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal axis basal functioning. To that end, we compared performing EM during retrieval versus a retrieval-only condition among patients with PTSD in Indonesia (N=91) using script-driven imagery. Participants were randomly assigned to EM (n = 47) or retrieval-only conditions (n = 44). Baseline and post-treatment heart rate variability (HRV), heart rate (HR), Pre-ejection period (PEP) were measured in response to a personal trauma script as stressor. Daily cortisol levels (AUC; area under the curve, and CAR; cortisol awakening response) were collected. Linear mixed models were used and showed that lower HR (p= 0.02) and CAR (p= 0.04) were found in the EM group after treatment compared to retrieval-only, HRV was increased and PEP was reduced in both groups. Moreover, daily cortisol secretion (AUC) was reduced in both groups. Our study suggests that the eye movement component of EMDR may reduce reactivity of some stress indices more than retrieval-only, while both conditions were effective for other indices.



Eka Susanty