Reduced Symptoms of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder and Irritable Bowel Syndrome Following Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Among Veterans

Harding K1, Simpson T1, Kearney DJ1. J Altern Complement Med. 2018 Aug 30. doi: 10.1089/acm.2018.0135. [Epub ahead of print]

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1 VA Puget Sound Health Care System , Seattle, Washington.


OBJECTIVES: Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) are highly comorbid conditions associated with reduced health-related quality of life. Comorbid prevalence is especially high among veterans, ranging from 23% to 51%, but there is limited research on integrative treatments.

DESIGN: To improve treatment of comorbid PTSD and IBS, this study examined the impact of mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) on symptom reduction and mindfulness skill building among veterans with this comorbidity. We hypothesized that veterans would report reduced trauma-related, gastrointestinal (GI) symptom-specific anxiety (GSA), and depression symptoms and greater mindfulness skills post-treatment. We also hypothesized that veterans who reported lower trauma-related GSA and depression symptoms, and reported greater mindfulness skills and MBSR session attendance would report lower irritable bowel symptoms post-treatment.

SETTINGS/LOCATION: VA (Veterans Administration) Puget Sound Health Care System, Seattle, Washington.

SUBJECTS: Participants were 55 veterans with PTSD and IBS.

INTERVENTIONS: Veterans participated in an 8-week open trial of MBSR group.

OUTCOME MEASURES: This study measured the impact of MBSR on PTSD, IBS, GSA, and depression symptoms as well as mindfulness skills.

RESULTS: Veterans reported reduced trauma-related, irritable bowel, GSA, and depression symptoms and greater mindfulness skills immediately post-treatment. Trauma-related and depression symptom reduction were maintained 4 months post-treatment, but irritable bowel and GSA symptoms were nonsignificant. Lower baseline GSA predicted lower irritable bowel symptoms immediately post-treatment. At 4 months post-treatment, 77.50% met PTSD criteria and 40.38% met IBS criteria compared with 100% veteran comorbidity pretreatment.

CONCLUSIONS: MBSR holds promise as a transdiagnostic intervention for individuals with comorbid trauma-related, depression, GSA, and irritable bowel symptoms, with maintenance of trauma-related and depression symptom improvement 4 months post-treatment.

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