The Westworld actress opened up about her experience with eye movement desensitization and reprocessing.

By Allie Strickler
April 19, 2019
Photo: Getty Images/Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/Contributor

More and more celebrities have been advocating for mental health awareness, including Evan Rachel Wood. Last year, the Westworld actress gave a moving testimony to Congress about her experiences as a victim of sexual abuse to show her support for the Sexual Assault Survivors' Bill of Rights Act. Then, in January, Wood wrote an essay about what it was like to check herself into a psychiatric hospital in her early 20s, and how her mental health journey has progressed since that time.

Now, the 31-year-old actress is sharing her experience with a unique form of psychotherapy, called eye movement desensitization and reprocessing, or EMDR. (Related: Ariana Grande Shared a Brain Scan Showing "Terrifying" PTSD Trauma)

"It's a kind of trauma therapy and I must say, is absolutely fantastic," Wood wrote on Instagram. "Crying has never felt so good."

EMDR is primarily used to treat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), though it is sometimes used in "different therapeutic situations" like anxiety or phobias, according to research published in the Indian Journal of Psychological Medicine. The method is designed to help someone cope with the emotional distress of a traumatic memory through a combination of instructed eye movements and psychological recall. (Related: Why More Women Have PTSD Than Men But Fewer Are Diagnosed)

"When a client comes in, I ask them to identify the most disturbing part of the trauma memory; usually there's one image that is the most disturbing," explained Susan Rogers, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist who specializes in the treatment of combat-related PTSD, in a video for the Veterans Health Administration. "I ask them what negative belief about themselves goes with that picture, what emotion they're feeling, what sensations they feel in their body. And then I have them focus on that while we do brief sets of eye movements. I usually just have them follow my hand back and forth with their eyes."

The idea is that these eye movements can help the person to relax enough so they can "think clearly about the trauma, sort it all out, and resolve it," said Rogers.

In terms of efficacy, EMDR therapy has been shown to "significantly reduce the symptoms of PTSD, depression, anxiety, and subjective distress in PTSD patients," according to an analysis published in the scientific journal PLOS One. The analysis looked at the results of 26 randomized, controlled trials of EMDR treatment for PTSD published between 1991 and 2013, and the main findings suggested that EMDR's benefits largely stem from improved self-awareness and management of negative emotions and memories.

"For people struggling with their past traumas and have the means to do so (which everyone should and it pisses me off that mental health is a luxury) I highly recommend this intense but very effective treatment," Wood wrote on Instagram. "Been through a lot, purged a lot, but my eyes are clear and hopeful." (Related: The Best Therapy and Mental Health Apps)

ICYDK, Wood hasn't always been comfortable sharing details about her mental health. She wrote in her Nylon essay that she checked into a psychiatric hospital under a different name because, at the time, she didn't feel like her struggles were "something [she] can broadcast."

The fact that she's now incredibly open about her mental health is nothing short of admirable. Wood says it best herself at the end of her post: "NO. SHAME. IN. GETTING. HELP."