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Somatoform Disorder Studies

Individuals with body dysmorphic disorder have a distorted body image which is irrational and negative, which interferes with their ability to function, and which can result in unnecessary and numerous plastic surgeries, and suicides. A case study series treated seven consecutive cases of body dysmorphic disorder with up to three sessions of EMDR1. These sessions focused on the memory of the first experience of the negative body image. After treatment, five of the seven individuals no longer met diagnostic criteria for body dysmorphic disorder. Positive effects have also been reported with application to body image disturbance and self-esteem attendant to eating disorder.


Several preliminary studies have indicated that EMDR can be successful in eliminating or substantially reducing pain2,3 and others4,5 have indicted successful application to phantom limb pain. Shapiro’s6 model conceptualizes the pain as resulting from the incomplete processing of the experience of traumatic amputation. When the memory is thoroughly processed, the pain is alleviated. Chronic pain, resulting from a variety of causes, is treated with the same focus on the etiological event7. Anecdotal reports suggest that EMDR may be effective in this application. These results were supported in a series of case studies8.


1Brown, K.W., McGoldrick, T. & Buchanan, R. (1997). Body dysmorphic disorder: Seven cases treated with eye movement desensitization and reprocessing. Behavioural & Cognitive Psychotherapy, 25, 203-207.

2Dziegielewski, S. (2000). Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) as time-limited treatment intervention for body image disturbance and self-esteem: a single subject case study design. Journal of Psychotherapy in Independent Practice, 1, (3) 1-16.

3Hassard, A (1995). Investigation of eye movement desensitization of body image. Behavioural Psychotherapy 21, 157-160.

4Wilensky, M. (2000). Phantom limb pain. EMDRAC Newsletter, 4, 2.

5Wilson, S. A., Tinker, R., Becker, L. A., Hofmann, A., & Cole, J. W. (2000, September). EMDR treatment of phantom limb pain with brain imaging (MEG). Paper presented at the annual meeting of the EMDR International Association, Toronto.

6Shapiro, F., (2001). Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing: Basic Principles, Protocols and Procedures (2nd edition). New York: Guilford Press

7Ray, A.L. & Zbik, A. (2001). Cognitive behavioral therapies and beyond. In C.D. Tollison, J.R. Satterthwaite, & J.W. Tollison (Eds.) Practical Pain Management (3rd edition). Phil., PA: LIppencott, pp. 189-208.

8Grant, M., & Threlfo, C. (2002). EMDR in the treatment of chronic pain. Journal of Clinical Psychology. 58, 1505-1502.