Improve the Psychological Symptoms of Lupus with Mindfulness
By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.
“Before I got lupus, I had no idea what an anxiety attack felt like, let alone how to work to stave one off. I’d always used meditation for personal focus and professional clarity. Meditation and mindfulness are how I have accomplished a lot of goals over the years but I never thought they would help me with anxiety.” – Kellie McRae
Autoimmune diseases occur when the body’s systems that are designed to ward off infection attack the individual’s own tissues. Lupus is an autoimmune disease that affects a variety of organ systems including kidneys, joints, skin, blood, brain, heart and lungs. Lupus can produce fever, joint pain, stiffness and swelling, butterfly-shaped rash on the face or rashes elsewhere on the body, skin lesions that appear or worsen with sun exposure, fingers and toes that turn white or blue when exposed to cold or during stressful periods, shortness of breath, chest pain, dry eyes, headaches, confusion and memory loss. Lupus strikes between 10 to 25 people per 100,000, or about 322,000 cases in the U.S..
The symptoms of Lupus can look like a number of other diseases so it is hard to diagnose lupus. It is tipped off in many patients by the distinctive facial rash. There are no known cures for lupus and treatment is targeted at symptom relief. Drug treatments include pain relievers, corticosteroids, immunosuppressants, and even antimalarial drugs. Mindfulness practices have been shown to be effective for a wide variety of illnesses and to improve the immune system. So, it is possible that mindfulness training could improve Lupus and its symptoms.
In today’s Research News article “The Effectiveness of Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy on Psychological Symptoms and Quality of Life in Systemic Lupus Erythematosus Patients: A Randomized Controlled Trial.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5632694/ ), Solati and colleagues investigated the effectiveness of mindfulness training as a treatment for Lupus. They recruited Lupus patients and randomly assigned them to receive either treatment as usual or an 8-week program of Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT). MBCT occurred in weekly 2-hour sessions and the patients were encouraged to practice at home. The control group in addition to usual medical care were provided advice on exercise, diet, and rest. They were measured before and after treatment and 6 months later for depression, anxiety, social function, somatization, and mental and physical quality of life.
They found that following MBCT there was a large, significant reduction in psychological symptoms including depression, anxiety, social function, somatization and a significant improvement in the patient’s psychological quality of life. The changes were clinically significant with large effect sizes. Importantly, these improvements remained significant at the 6-month follow-up.
Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) is directed at assessing and altering negative thought patterns and judgements and developing mindfulness skills. Participants learn to become aware of their body sensation, thoughts, and emotions without judgement. MBCT was developed specifically to treat depression but has been found to be effective for a variety of psychological conditions. The present results demonstrate that it is also effective for the psychological symptoms of Lupus.
Lupus is a difficult painful condition that creates major stress and disruption of the patients’ lives. This, in turn, produces mental health challenges and marked decreases in the quality of life. The disease is difficult enough by itself. But, the psychological issues produced act to increase the suffering. Mindfulness training has been shown to reduce the psychological and physiological responses to stress, and stress has the effect of eliciting and amplifying Lupus symptoms. So, reducing response to stress can markedly improve the symptoms. The present study suggests that developing non-judgmental awareness of how and what they are feeling and what they are thinking in the present moment has tremendous beneficial effects, reducing the mental suffering and improving their quality of life.
So, improve the psychological symptoms of lupus with mindfulness.
“Meditation’s goal is to relax the mind and body, engage feelings about pain or other challenges, release tension and tap into a positive outlook – despite a chronic illness like Lupus. Focusing on negativity, especially on feelings of loss of health and well-being, only exacerbates pain. Meditation helps bring things into present-moment awareness, to see where we are, and assess things in that moment.” – Jasmine Ly
CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies
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Solati, K., Mousavi, M., Kheiri, S., & Hasanpour-Dehkordi, A. (2017). The Effectiveness of Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy on Psychological Symptoms and Quality of Life in Systemic Lupus Erythematosus Patients: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Oman Medical Journal, 32(5), 378–385. http://doi.org/10.5001/omj.2017.73
This study was conducted to determine the efficacy of mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) on psychological symptoms and quality of life (QoL) in patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE).
We conducted a randomized single-blind clinical trial in patients with SLE referred from the Imam Ali Clinic in Shahrekord, southwest Iran. The patients (46 in total in two groups of 23 each) were randomly assigned into the experimental and control groups. Both groups underwent routine medical care, and the experimental group underwent eight group sessions of MBCT in addition to routine care. The patient,s QoL was assessed using the General Health Questionnaire-28 and 36-Item Short Form Health Survey before, after, and six months after intervention (follow-up).
A significant difference was seen in psychological symptoms and QoL between MBCT and control groups immediately after the intervention and at follow-up (p ≤ 0.050). However, the difference was not significant for the physical components of QoL (p ≥ 0.050).
MBCT contributed to decreased psychological symptoms and improved QoL in patients with SLE with a stable effect on psychological symptoms and psychological components of QoL, but an unstable effect on physical components.