Effect of EMDR on anxiety and swimming times

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This study investigated the effect of Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) on swimmers who had experienced a traumatic swimming event. Measures of performance, anxiety, and self-perception in (N = 65) competitive college and high school swimmers were collected Swimmers were randomly assigned to one of three conditions; EMDR, imagery or no treatment. All participants took the State-Trait Anxiety Scale and performed a 100 yd freestyle swim pretreatment and posttreatment. The EMDR and imagery group had two additional anxiety measures: [heart rate and Subjective Units of Distress, (SUDS)] and one cognition scale the Validity of Cognition Scale. These two groups had three sessions of either EMDR or imagery. Trait anxiety scores did not differ among groups as expected but the EMDR group's state anxiety decreased compared to the no treatment group p = .002. Heart rate and SUDS decreased as a consequence of group, with EMDR showing a drop in rate p < .001. Swim times were not different for all the groups, but EMDR improved compared to the no treatment p = .043. The EMDR group endorsed greater coping beliefs than the imagery group p < .01. EMDR may provide coaches with an alternative to imagery to help the athlete who has a "mental block" (negative thoughts indicating inability to cope with the swimming event) secondary to a traumatic sport event.

Original Citation

Graham, Louise B., Robinson, Ellyn M. (2007). Effect of EMDR on anxiety and swimming times. Journal of Swimming Research, 17, 1.