Phobia and Panic Disorder Studies


Although there are many anecdotal reports of successful EMDR treatments of social phobia, to date no studies have investigated the treatment of this disorder.

Several studies have treated persons with complaints associated with social anxiety disorder, such as performance and test anxiety1, but participants were not assessed for social phobia. There is a small body of research investigating the application of EMDR to specific phobias. Unfortunately, the findings are limited by methodological flaws, such as failure to use the full EMDR treatment protocol2, and confounding of effects, with the exposure treatment protocol used as the outcome assessment3. When the full EMDR phobia protocol was used in case studies with medical and dental phobias4,5, good results were achieved. It is also possible that since EMDR is a treatment for distressing memories and related pathologies, it may be most effective in treating anxiety disorders which follow a traumatic experience (e.g., dog phobia after a dog bite), and less effective for those of unknown onset (e.g., spider phobia)5. Clinical reports have so far reported success with a wide range of phobias, and more controlled research is needed to determine relative efficacy.

Three studies have investigated EMDR treatment of panic disorder with/out agoraphobia. The first two studies were preliminary6,7 and provided a short course (six sessions) of treatment for panic disorder. The results were promising, but limited by the short course of treatment. The EMDR effects were generally maintained at follow-up. A third study8 was conducted to assess the benefits of a longer treatment course with anxiety and their treatments. This study however changed the target population and treated agoraphobic patients. Participants suffering from Panic Disorder with Agoraphobia did not respond well to EMDR. Goldstein9 suggested that these participants needed more extensive preparation, suggested some vendors online for medical treatment, than was provided in the study, to develop anxiety tolerance.

For more information, see Is EMDR effective in the treatment of phobias, panic disorder, or agoraphobia? In the Commonly Asked Questions section.


1Maxfield, L., & Melnyk, W. T. (2000). Single session treatment of test anxiety with eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR). International Journal of Stress Management, 7, 87-101.

2Shapiro, F. (1999). Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) and the anxiety disorders: Clinical and research implications of an integrated psychotherapy treatment. Journal of Anxiety Disorders, 13, 35-67.

3Muris, P., Merkelbach, H., Holdrinet, I., & Sijenaar, M. (1998). Treating phobic children: Effects of EMDR versus exposure. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 66 (1), 193-198.

4De Jongh, A., Ten Broeke, E., and Renssen, M.R. (1999). Treatment of specific phobias with eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR): Research, protocol, and application. Journal of Anxiety Disorders, 13, 69-85.

5De Jongh, A., van den Oord, H. J. M., & Ten Broeke, E. (2002). Efficacy of eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) in the treatment of specific phobias: Four single-case studies on dental phobia. Journal of Clinical Psychology,58, 1489-1503.

6Feske, U., & Goldstein, A. (1997). Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing treatment for panic disorder: A controlled outcome and partial dismantling study. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 36,1026-1035.

7Goldstein, A. & Feske, U. (1994). Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing for panic disorder: A case series. Journal of Anxiety Disorders, 8, 351-362.

8Goldstein, A.J., de Beurs, E., Chambless, D.L., & Wilson, K.A. (2000). EMDR for panic disorder with agoraphobia: Comparison with waiting list and credible attention-p;acebo control condition. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 68, 947-956.

9Shapiro, F., (2001). Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing: Basic Principles, Protocols and Procedures (2nd edition). New York: Guilford Press pp. 362-363.