Is Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Effective in Adults with an Autism Spectrum Disorder and Comorbid Post Traumatic Stress Disorder?

Poster Presentation
Friday, May 11, 2018: 11:30 AM-1:30 PM
Hall Grote Zaal (de Doelen ICC Rotterdam)
S. Piening1, A. van Dijk1, N. Mirzaeva1, P. Huizinga1, M. Vieira Rocha1, S. P. Dijkstra1 and I. D. van Balkom1,2, (1)Autism Team Northern Netherlands, Jonx (Lentis), Groningen, Netherlands, (2)Lentis Psychiatric Institute, Zuidlaren, Netherlands

People with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are more likely to experience traumatic events and to develop post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is an effective treatment option for PTSD, but its effect on adults with ASD and comorbid PTSD is largely unknown.


To study the effectiveness of EMDR in adults with ASD and comorbid PTSD.


In this before-after study, adults with ASD and comorbid PTSD (diagnosed according to DSM criteria) filled out Dutch versions of three self-report questionnaires: the Impact of Event Scale (IES-R; assessing trauma symptoms); the Social Responsiveness Scale Adult (SRS-A; assessing ASD symptoms) and the World Health Organization Disability Assessment Scale 2.0 (WHODAS 2.0; assessing social functioning). Treatment was given by experienced and qualified psychologists. Repeated measures ANOVA were performed to assess any significant differences in total scores of the questionnaires. A distinction was made between patients with single versus multiple traumas.


To date twelve service users have been included in the study (n=3 females; aged 18 to 41; five participants with multiple traumas). Preliminary results show that EMDR reduced PTSD symptoms significantly at group level (F(1,11)=7.76, p=0.02). Half of the participants did not meet the PTSD criteria anymore after EMDR treatment. ASD characteristics and social functioning did not improve significantly at group level (F(1,11)=0.01, p=0.92) and F(1,11)=0.10, p=0.76), respectively). However, a significant improvement in social functioning was observed for the single trauma group (F(1,4)=27.24, p=0.006). When looking at individual results, scores for ASD-characteristics improved in 8 of 12 participants and social functioning improved in 9 of 12 participants.


EMDR appears to be effective in reducing PTSD symptoms, but not ASD symptoms and social functioning in patients with ASD and comorbid PTSD. Data collection will continue to facilitate a more reliable conclusion regarding the effect of EMDR in patients with ASD and comorbid PTSD.