Mindfulness, self-compassion and post-traumatic stress disorder
Background: Post-traumatic stress and exposure to early traumatic events are often characterised by negative self-cognitions and experiences of shame, guilt or blame. These symptoms are theoretically linked to the concept of self-compassion which is an important factor in affect regulation, and is predictive of mental wellbeing and psychological distress. Interventions aimed at increasing acceptance, non-judgement and self-compassion such as mindfulness may be useful in the treatment of post-traumatic stress symptoms. Methods: The first part of this portfolio presents a systematic review which aimed to collate and evaluate the existing research for the use of mindfulness based interventions to treat post-traumatic stress symptoms. The search process involved a systematic search of relevant research databases, hand search of relevant journals, and relevant authors were contacted. The second part of this portfolio presents a quantitative research study which explored the relationship between the experience of childhood trauma and self-compassion; and whether self-compassion was predictive of post-traumatic stress and growth in an adult clinical sample. Data were collected through postal survey and analysed using correlation and hierarchical regression analysis. Systematic Review Results: The systematic review resulted in 12 studies which met eligibility criteria, the majority of studies indicated positive outcomes with improvements in post-traumatic stress symptoms, particularly in reducing avoidance. Many of these studies lacked methodological rigour and further studies with more robust research design are required. Research Study Results: The quantitative study showed that greater experience of childhood emotional abuse, neglect, punishment and sexual abuse were significantly correlated with lower self-compassion in adulthood. Hierarchical regression showed that self-compassion was predictive of total post-traumatic stress symptoms, post-traumatic avoidance and intrusion when age, gender, exposure to traumatic events and childhood trauma were controlled. The experience of post-traumatic growth showed no significant relationship with self-compassion. Conclusions: Studies indicate that mindfulness interventions show promise for the treatment of PTSD symptoms, although further research with more robust methodology is needed. Greater experience of childhood abuse is related to lower self-compassion in adulthood and lower self-compassion is predictive of higher PTSD avoidance and intrusion symptoms. This suggests that future research investigating self-compassion interventions may be beneficial in treating PTSD.