Improve Neuroticism with Mindfulness

Mindfulness Neuroticism2 Armstrong

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Self-deprecating comedians and complainers wear their neuroticism as a badge of honor. In truth, the negatively biased are more prone to depression, anxiety, self-consciousness and hypochondria, to name just a few behavioral tripwires. Neuroticism is no fun for anyone.” – Psychology Today

 

We often speak of people being neurotic. But, do we really know what we’re talking about? Do we really know what it is? Neurosis is actually an outdated diagnosis that is no longer used medically. The disorders that were once classified as a neurosis are now more accurately categorized as post-traumatic stress disorder, somatization disorders, anxiety disorder, panic disorder, phobias, dissociation disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder and adjustment disorder.

 

Neuroticism, however, is considered a personality trait that is a lasting characteristic of the individual. It is characterized by negative feelings, repetitive thinking about the past (rumination), and worry about the future, moodiness and loneliness. It appears to be linked to vulnerability to stress. People who have this characteristic are not happy with life and have a low subjective sense of well-being and recognize that this state is unacceptable. There is some hope for people with high neuroticism as this relatively stable characteristic appears to be lessened by mindfulness training. This is potentially important and deserves further investigation.

 

In today’s Research News article “Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy for Neuroticism (Stress Vulnerability): A Pilot Randomized Study.” See:

https://www.facebook.com/ContemplativeStudiesCenter/photos/a.628903887133541.1073741828.627681673922429/1245647922125798/?type=3&theater

or below

Armstrong and Rimes examined the ability of Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) to treat individuals high in neuroticism. They randomly assigned participants with high neuroticism to either an 8-week, once a week for 2-hours, MBCT treatment group or and on-line self-help treatment control group. Measures were taken before and 4-weeks after treatment of mindfulness, neuroticism, impairment in everyday functioning, anxiety, depressive symptoms, self-compassion, beliefs about emotions, rumination, and decentering.

 

They found that after treatment in comparisons to the control group the MBCT group had significantly lower neuroticism scores, and rumination, and a trend toward lower functional impairment due to stress. In addition, the MBCT group had significantly higher self-compassion and decentering and trends toward lessened unhelpful beliefs and emotions and higher mindfulness. Surprisingly, since MBCT was developed specifically to treat depression, there were no significant differences in anxiety or depression.

 

These results are interesting and potentially important. This, however, was a pilot study that had relatively small group sizes (17). The fact that significant differences were detected nonetheless indicates that the effects were fairly strong. The results clearly indicate that a larger randomized controlled trial is called for.

 

Mindfulness may affect neuroticism in a number of ways. By focusing the individual on the present moment, mindfulness should lessen the neuroticism characteristics of rumination about the past and worry about the future. Mindfulness is also known to reduce the psychological and physiological responses to stress and stress is known to contribute to neuroticism. Finally, mindfulness has been shown to produce heightened emotion regulation. So, the mindful individual feels and appreciates their emotions but responds appropriately and adaptively. This should lessen the moodiness, negative feelings, and loneliness characteristic of neuroticism. So, it is not surprising the mindfulness based treatments would be effective in lowering neuroticism. This is a hopeful development, as people high in neuroticism are very unhappy people. Mindfulness may provide some relief and help them toward a happier life.

 

So, improve neuroticism with mindfulness.

 

“Being in the moment with those thoughts and recognizing them for what they are has really helped me to kind of shove them aside, or to kind of diffuse them,” she says. “I think it’s really helped me become a more aware person of what other people might be feeling.” – JoSelle Vanderhooft

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are available  on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts

 

Study Summary

Armstrong L, Rimes KA. Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy for Neuroticism (Stress Vulnerability): A Pilot Randomized Study. Behav Ther. 2016 May;47(3):287-98. doi: 10.1016/j.beth.2015.12.005. Epub 2016 Jan 5. PMID: 27157024. doi:10.1016/j.beth.2015.12.005

 

Highlights

  • A new MBCT intervention for neuroticism versus online general self-help is examined
  • Compared with self-help, MBCT results in significantly lower levels of neuroticism
  • Rumination and self-compassion improved more in the MBCT group than the control group
  • MBCT is an acceptable and feasible intervention for neuroticism
  • Neuroticism may be amenable to change through psychological intervention

Abstract

Objective: Neuroticism, a characteristic associated with increased stress vulnerability and the tendency to experience distress, is strongly linked to risk of different forms of psychopathology. However, there are few evidence-based interventions to target neuroticism. This pilot study investigated the efficacy and acceptability of mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) compared with an online self-help intervention for individuals with high levels of neuroticism. The MBCT was modified to address psychological processes that are characteristic of neuroticism. Method: Participants with high levels of neuroticism were randomized to MBCT (n = 17) or an online self-help intervention (n = 17). Self-report questionnaires were administered preintervention and again at 4 weeks postintervention. Results: Intention-to-treat analyses found that MBCT participants had significantly lower levels of neuroticism postintervention than the control group. Compared with the control group, the MBCT group also experienced significant reductions in rumination and increases in self-compassion and decentering, of which the latter two were correlated with reductions in neuroticism within the MBCT group. Low drop-out rates, high levels of adherence to home practice, and positive feedback from MBCT participants provide indications that this intervention may be an acceptable form of treatment for individuals who are vulnerable to becoming easily stressed. Conclusions: MBCT specifically modified to target neuroticism-related processes is a promising intervention for reducing neuroticism. Results support evidence suggesting neuroticism is malleable and amenable to psychological intervention. MBCT for neuroticism warrants further investigation in a larger study.

 

Relieve Uncertainty and Panic Disorder with Mindfulness

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Panic gains momentum from the energy we put into fighting it, and the fact is, we don’t always need to fight it. Life happens to you and me as it happens to all people, whether we are ready for it or not, and all we really need to do is be open to experiencing it one moment at a time.” – Krista Lester

 

Anxiety and fear happen in everyone and under normal conditions are coped with adaptively and effectively and do not continue beyond the eliciting conditions. But, in a large number of people the anxiety is non-specific and overwhelming. Anxiety Disorders are the most common psychological problem. In the U.S., they affect over 40 million adults, 18% of the population, with women accounting for 60% of sufferers They typically include feelings of panic, fear, and uneasiness, problems sleeping, cold or sweaty hands and/or feet, shortness of breath, heart palpitations, an inability to be still and calm, dry mouth, and numbness or tingling in the hands or feet.

 

A subset of people with anxiety disorders are diagnosed with Panic Disorder. These are sudden attacks of fear and nervousness, as well as physical symptoms such as difficulty breathing, pounding heart or chest pain, intense feeling of dread, shortness of breath, sensation of choking or smothering, dizziness or feeling faint, trembling or shaking, sweating, nausea or stomachache, tingling or numbness in the fingers and toes, chills or hot flashes, and a fear that they are losing control or are about to die. A common additional symptom of panic disorder is the persistent fear of having future panic attacks. The fear of these attacks can cause the person to avoid places and situations where an attack has occurred or where they believe an attack may occur. Needless to say patients are miserable, their quality of life is low, and their ability to carry on a normal life disrupted.

 

There are a number of treatments for Panic Disorder including psychotherapy, relaxation training, and medication. Recently it’s been demonstrated that panic disorder can be treated with mindfulness practice. In particular, Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) has been shown to be particularly effective. It is not known, however, the exact mechanism of action of MBCT effects on Panic Disorder. In today’s Research News article “Impact of Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy on Intolerance of Uncertainty in Patients with Panic Disorder.” See:

https://www.facebook.com/ContemplativeStudiesCenter/photos/a.628903887133541.1073741828.627681673922429/1232976826726241/?type=3&theater

or below or view the full text of the study at:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4823195/

Kim and colleagues investigate whether an intolerance of uncertainty may be a key factor in Panic Disorder and the response to MBCT. Intolerance of uncertainty is defined as a “dispositional characteristic that results from a set of negative beliefs about uncertainty and its implications, and involves the tendency to react negatively on an emotional, cognitive, and behavioral level to uncertain situations and events.”

 

Kim and colleagues recruited patients suffering with Panic Disorder and treated them with an 8-week program of Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT). They measured Panic Disorder intensity, depression, and intolerance of uncertainty both before and after treatment. They found that MBCT produced significant decreases in all measures, with patients having significantly lower levels of Panic Disorder intensity, depression, and intolerance of uncertainty after treatment. They also found that before treatment, the higher the level of intolerance of uncertainty, the greater the intensity of Panic Disorder and the higher the level of depression. In addition, the greater the reduction in intolerance of uncertainty produced by MBCT, the greater the reduction in Panic Disorder intensity. The significant association between intolerance of uncertainty and Panic Disorder intensity was present even after the pre-treatment level of Panic Disorder intensity and Depression were accounted for.

 

These results suggest that Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) is an effective treatment for Panic Disorder. They further suggest that the effectiveness of MBCT is at least in part due to it reducing the intolerance of uncertainty that is characteristic of Panic Disorder patients. Mindfulness training in general and MBCT in particular increase attention to what is transpiring in the present moment and decrease thinking about the future. Since intolerance of uncertainty is a worry about future events, it would seem reasonable that MBCT would reduce it. Since intolerance of uncertainty is clearly related to Panic Disorder, its reduction should reduce Panic Disorder.

 

It should be noted that the study did not contain a control (comparison) condition. So, it cannot be concluded that MBCT was responsible for the improvements. It is possible that a placebo effect or spontaneous remissions were responsible. Regardless, the results are suggestive that MBCT is a safe and effective intervention for the relief of Panic Disorder, depression, and intolerance of uncertainty. So, relieve uncertainty and panic disorder with mindfulness.

 

“mindfulness takes ‘thinker’ out of thought, and teaches us to step back and observe our minds and our thoughts. Mindfulness is learning to see exactly what is happening. It ‘disengages’ our ‘automatic pilot’ and gives us the necessary space to see cause and effect as it happens in ‘real’ time. Cause: thought. Effect: panic and/or anxiety.” – Bronwyn Fox

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

Study Summary

Kim, M. K., Lee, K. S., Kim, B., Choi, T. K., & Lee, S.-H. (2016). Impact of Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy on Intolerance of Uncertainty in Patients with Panic Disorder. Psychiatry Investigation, 13(2), 196–202. http://doi.org/10.4306/pi.2016.13.2.196

 

Abstract

Objective: Intolerance of uncertainty (IU) is a transdiagnostic construct in various anxiety and depressive disorders. However, the relationship between IU and panic symptom severity is not yet fully understood. We examined the relationship between IU, panic, and depressive symptoms during mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) in patients with panic disorder.

Methods: We screened 83 patients with panic disorder and subsequently enrolled 69 of them in the present study. Patients participating in MBCT for panic disorder were evaluated at baseline and at 8 weeks using the Intolerance of Uncertainty Scale (IUS), Panic Disorder Severity Scale-Self Report (PDSS-SR), and Beck Depression Inventory (BDI).

Results: There was a significant decrease in scores on the IUS (p<0.001), PDSS (p<0.001), and BDI (p<0.001) following MBCT for panic disorder. Pre-treatment IUS scores significantly correlated with pre-treatment PDSS (p=0.003) and BDI (p=0.003) scores. We also found a significant association between the reduction in IU and PDSS after controlling for the reduction in the BDI score (p<0.001).

Conclusion: IU may play a critical role in the diagnosis and treatment of panic disorder. MBCT is effective in lowering IU in patients with panic disorder.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4823195/

 

Buffer Yourself from Neuroticism with Mindfulness

We have long observed that every neurosis has the result, and therefore probably the purpose, of forcing the patient out of real life, of alienating him from actuality.Sigmund Freud

 

We often speak of people being neurotic. But, do we really know what we’re talking about? Do we really know what it is? Neurosis is actually an outdated diagnosis that is no longer used medically. The disorders that were once classified as a neurosis are now more accurately categorized as post-traumatic stress disorder, somatization disorders, anxiety disorder, panic disorder, phobias, dissociation disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder and adjustment disorder.

 

But, neuroticism is considered a personality trait that is a lasting characteristic of individuals. It is characterized by negative feelings, repetitive thinking about the past (rumination), and worry about the future, moodiness and loneliness. People who have this characteristic are not happy with life and have a low subjective sense of well-being and recognize that this state is unacceptable.

 

This relatively stable characteristic appears to be lessened by mindfulness training. Mindfulness training also has been found to improve individuals’ subjective well-being. So, it makes sense to think that mindfulness may be involved in the link between neuroticism and low subjective well-being. This possible link is explored in today’s Research News article “Curb your neuroticism – Mindfulness mediates the link between neuroticism and subjective well-being”

https://www.facebook.com/ContemplativeStudiesCenter/photos/a.628903887133541.1073741828.627681673922429/1094124517278140/?type=3&theater

Wenzel and colleagues studied individuals high in neuroticism and found that they tended to have negative mood and low vitality and general interest in life; that is low subjective well-being.

 

Wenzel and colleagues then added mindfulness to the prediction and found that mindfulness in part mediated the relationship between neuroticism and low subjective well-being especially in individuals who had high levels of neuroticism. It thus appears that neuroticism lowers mindfulness which in turn results in negative mood and low vitality and general interest in life. This suggests that being mindful may in part protect an individual from the effects of neuroticism on their well-being.

 

There are a number of potential explanations for these effects of mindfulness. Neuroticism is characterized by rumination and worry, which are thought processes centered on the past and future. Mindfulness, on the other hand, is an ability to focus on the present moment. Hence, mindfulness could be seen as an antidote to the past and future orientation in neuroticism.

 

Neuroticism is also characterized by moodiness and loneliness. Mindfulness has been shown to improve emotion regulation; the ability to feel and recognize an emotional state but be able to understand it and respond to it appropriately (see http://contemplative-studies.org/wp/index.php/2015/08/20/regulate-emotions-with-mindfulness/ and http://contemplative-studies.org/wp/index.php/2015/07/17/control-emotions-the-right-way-with-mindfulness/). So mindfulness would also appear to be an antidote for the moodiness involved in neuroticism. Indeed, it has been shown that mindfulness can reduce feelings of anger and depression and improve self-control among people with high neuroticism.

 

So, buffer yourself from neuroticism with mindfulness.

 

Mindfulness has helped me succeed in almost every dimension of my life. By stopping regularly to look inward and become aware of my mental state, I stay connected to the source of my actions and thoughts and can guide them with considerably more intention.” – Dustin Moskovitz

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies