Reduce Self-Injury with Mindfulness

Reduce Self-Injury with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“In order to end self-harm, one needs to change one’s whole relationship with oneself, and how one sees oneself. A good starting point is with one’s thoughts. Mindfulness keeps one fully grounded in the present … in the presence of the action of the present moment. Mindfulness helps one to observe and note thoughts, positive or negative, without feeling the need to act upon them.” –  Ian Ellis-Jones

 

Self-injury is “direct and deliberate destruction of one’s own body tissue in the absence of suicidal intent.” The most common self-injury methods are cutting, scratching, hitting a part of the body against a hard surface, and punching, hitting or slapping one’s self. It is a disturbing phenomenon occurring worldwide, especially in developed countries. Approximately two million cases are reported annually in the U.S. Each year, 1 in 5 females and 1 in 7 males engage in self-injury usually starting in the teen years. Frequently, untreated depression and other mental health challenges create an environment of despair that leads people to cope with these challenges in unhealthy ways.

 

Non-suicidal self-injury appears to be an individual’s attempt to cope with overwhelming negative emotions. Mindfulness has been shown to produce better regulation of emotions, where the mindful individual is fully aware of and feels the emotions, but can respond to them rationally and adaptively. Thus, mindfulness may be an antidote for self-injurious behavior. Indeed, one of the characterizing symptoms of Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is self-injurious behaviors and a mindfulness based technique, Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is the only therapy that has been shown to be effective in reducing the symptoms of BPD. So, it would be reasonable to investigate further the relationship between mindfulness, self-injurious behavior.

 

In today’s Research News article “Mindless Suffering: the Relationship Between Mindfulness and Non-Suicidal Self-Injury.” (See summary below). Caltabiano & Martin recruited undergraduate students and had them complete measures of mindfulness, including five subscales, observe, describe, act with awareness, non-judging, and non-reacting, and self-injurious behavior, and severity of self-injury. Surprisingly, over half of the participants indicated that they had engaged in self-injury sometime in their lives. To further investigate this phenomenon, the researchers separated and compared those participants who reported self-injurious behaviors to those who did not.

 

Participants who self-injured reported that they did so for a variety of reasons including emotion regulation, self-punishment, to mark distress, preventing dissociation, toughness, self-care, preventing suicide, boundaries between themselves and others, conformity, revenge, autonomy, sensation seeking, and peer bonding. Those participants who did not self-injure, compared to those who did, were significantly higher in overall mindfulness, and the mindfulness facets of acting with awareness, non-judging, and non-reacting. In addition, the self-injurers that evidenced less severe self-injury had higher mindfulness scores than those who had severe self-injuries. They also found that the higher the levels of mindfulness the lower the levels of using self-injurious behaviors to regulate emotions.

 

These are interesting results. But, it must be taken into consideration that the study was correlational and thus causation cannot be determined. But, the results clearly indicate that there is a strong significant relationship between mindfulness less self-injury. This suggest that a randomized controlled clinical trial should be performed to investigate the effect of mindfulness training on self-injurious behaviors to established whether mindfulness produces less self-injury and whether mindfulness training would be a useful therapeutic technique to treat people who self-injure.

 

It is interesting that the mindfulness facets of acting with awareness, non-judging, and non-reacting were the most strongly associated with low self-injury. This suggests that the reason that mindfulness may be effective is because it lowers the individual’s tendency to judge and react to their feelings.

 

So, reduce self-injury with mindfulness.

 

“mindfulness may be a beneficial element of prevention efforts for suicide, especially among those who have self-injured in the past.” – Alia Warner

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

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

 

Study Summary

 

Caltabiano, G. & Martin, G. Mindless Suffering: the Relationship Between Mindfulness and Non-Suicidal Self-Injury. Mindfulness (2017) 8: 788. doi:10.1007/s12671-016-0657-y

 

Abstract

Non-suicidal self-injury is a complex behaviour, disturbingly prevalent, difficult to treat and with possible adverse outcomes in the long term. Previous research has shown individuals most commonly self-injure to cope with overwhelming negative emotions. Mindfulness has been shown to be associated with emotion regulation, and mindfulness-based interventions have shown effectiveness in a wide range of psychological disorders. This research explored whether lack of mindfulness or problems in mindfulness are involved in self-injury. A non-clinical sample of 263 participants (17–65 years) completed an online survey measuring self-injurious behaviours and mindfulness. Differences in levels of mindfulness between individuals with and without a history of self-injury were investigated. Analysis of variance indicated mindfulness (overall and in terms of specific facets “act with awareness”, “non-judge” and “non-react”) was significantly lower in individuals with a history of self-injury compared to those without. Pairwise comparisons revealed current self-injurers reported significantly lower mindfulness than past self-injurers and non-self-injurers, with medium effect sizes of d = 0.51 and d = 0.77, respectively. In logistic regression, low mindfulness significantly predicted self-injury (B = 0.04, p < .001). These findings have clinical implications, suggesting that mindfulness-based interventions may assist individuals to give up self-injurious behaviours and may be an important part of prevention strategies.

Improve Borderline Personality Disorder and Reduce Suicidal Thoughts with Mindfulness

Improve Borderline Personality Disorder and Reduce Suicidal Thoughts with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“mindfulness meditation encourages recognition of the wide palate of human emotions, but also keenly encourages one not to fixate on these temporary feelings. Work in mindfulness meditation includes labeling these emotions in a non-judgmental manner and allowing them to pass just as freely as they came. The misery and the suffering those with BPD experience in life often come from our denial of some of these emotions.” – Blaise Aguirre

 

Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is a very serious mental illness that is estimated to affect 1.6% of the U.S. population. It involves unstable moods, behavior, and relationships, problems with regulating emotions and thoughts, impulsive and reckless behavior, and unstable relationships. BPD is associated with high rates of co-occurring depression, anxiety disorders, substance abuse, eating disorders, self-harm, suicidal behaviors, and completed suicides. BPD is dangerous as it can propel the sufferer, on the spur of the moment, to overreact to anger, take drugs, harm themselves, and even terminate their lives.

 

BPD has not responded well to a variety of therapies with the exception of Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT). It is significant that a difference between DBT and other therapies is that it emphasizes mindfulness. This suggests that mindfulness training may be essential in treating Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). Mindfulness training has been found to be helpful intreating substance abuse and decreasing suicidal thoughts. Hence, there appears to be a relationship between mindfulness and Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), substance abuse and suicidal thoughts.

 

In today’s Research News article “The relationship between dispositional mindfulness, borderline personality features, and suicidal ideation in a sample of women in residential substance use treatment.” See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4834542/, Shorey and colleagues recruited adult women with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) who were also undergoing treatment for substance abuse. The women completed measures of mindfulness, BPD features, including affective, identity problems, negative relationships, and self-harm, suicidal thoughts, alcohol abuse, drug use, and impression management. They then conducted regression analyses to investigate the relationship between mindfulness and BPD, suicidality, and drug use.

 

They found that in these patients the higher the levels of mindfulness the lower the levels of BPD features, including affective, identity problems, negative relationships, and self-harm, the lower the levels of suicidal thoughts, and the higher the levels of impression management. Hence, mindfulness was significantly negatively associated with BPD symptoms and suicidality. These relationships, with the exception of self-harm, remained significant even after statistically accounting for alcohol use, drug use, age, and impression management.

 

These results suggest that mindfulness may be an antidote to Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) symptoms and suicidal thoughts. It is possible that this results from the ability of mindfulness to improve emotion regulation. Mindful people to experience their emotions deeply but are able to respond to them rationally and adaptively. Characteristically, patients with BPD avoid experiencing negative emotions. So, mindfulness, by promoting the experience of these emotions may counteract one of the core features of BPD.

 

It should be recognized that these results are correlational. So, causality cannot be determined. But, since Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) which contains mindfulness training is the only known therapy that has been shown to be effective for BPD. It would seem reasonable to suggest that mindfulness causes changes in BPD symptoms. A randomized clinical trial of mindfulness training for BPD symptoms and suicidality should be conducted in the future to test these ideas. The potential for mindfulness training to improve the symptoms of this devastating and dangerous mental illness mandates that such a trial be conducted.

 

So, improve borderline personality disorder and reduce suicidal thoughts with mindfulness.

 

“Mindfulness meditation training can help people with BPD to feel less “stuck” in their emotions, and less judgmental of the emotions and themselves. Mindfulness meditation training may also help individuals with BPD be more effective in applying healthy coping skills in the midst of emotional pain, because mindfulness skills allow you to get just a little bit of space to be able to notice the emotion and be more strategic in terms of how you will act in the face of the emotion.” – Line Goguen-Hughes

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

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

 

Study Summary

 

Shorey, R. C., Elmquist, J., Wolford-Clevenger, C., Gawrysiak, M. J., Anderson, S., & Stuart, G. L. (2016). The relationship between dispositional mindfulness, borderline personality features, and suicidal ideation in a sample of women in residential substance use treatment. Psychiatry Research, 238, 122–128. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.psychres.2016.02.040

 

Highlights

  • Theory suggests mindfulness is inversely related to BPD/suicidal ideation
  • We investigated this in a sample of women in treatment for substance use
  • Dispositional mindfulness was negatively associated with BPD
  • Dispositional mindfulness was negatively associated with suicidal ideation

Abstract

Borderline personality disorder (BPD), which is characterized by unstable moods, behavior, and relationships, is also associated with heightened suicidal ideation. Prior research has demonstrated that BPD and suicidal ideation are prevalent among women in substance use treatment. Efforts to treat substance use in this population are made difficult due to the severity of BPD, and it is possible that mindfulness-based interventions specific to substance use could be an effective approach for this population. However, basic research is needed on the relationship between dispositional mindfulness, BPD, and suicidal ideation among women in treatment for substance use to support their associations, which was the purpose of the present study. Pre-existing medical records were reviewed from a residential substance use treatment center. A total of 81 female patients were included in the current study. Patients completed self-report measures of mindfulness, BPD, suicidal ideation, substance use, and impression management at treatment intake. Findings demonstrated dispositional mindfulness to be negatively associated with BPD features and suicidal ideation. With the exception of self-harm, this negative relationship was found even after controlling for age, substance use, and impression management. Future research should examine whether mindfulness-based interventions are an effective treatment for comorbid substance use and BPD.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4834542/

Reduce Self-harm with Mindfulness-based Dialectical Behavior Therapy

DBT self-harm2 Ruocco

 


By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“People who self-injure have often found themselves either the victims of abuse or otherwise powerless and helpless in the midst of terrible circumstances. Self-abuse often provides an escape from overwhelming feelings of isolation, fear, humiliation or fury. Some who self-injure explain that it gives a sense of control in a world where they feel helpless. It can also be a physical sign of emotional pain.” – CHRISTY MATTA

 

Self-injury is a disturbing phenomenon occurring worldwide, especially in developed countries, such as the U.S. and those in western Europe. Approximately two million cases are reported annually in the U.S. Each year, 1 in 5 females and 1 in 7 males engage in self-injury usually starting in the teen years. Frequently, untreated depression and other mental health challenges create an environment of despair that leads people to cope with these challenges in unhealthy ways. Nearly 50 percent of those who engage in self-injury have been sexually abused. Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is a very serious mental illness that is estimated to affect 1.6% of the U.S. population. It involves unstable moods, behavior, and relationships, problems with regulating emotions and thoughts, impulsive and reckless behavior, and unstable relationships. About ¾ of BPD patients engage in self-injurious behaviors.

 

One of the few treatments that appears to be effective for Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT). It is targeted at changing the problem behaviors characteristic of BPD including self-injury. Behavior change is accomplished through focusing on changing the thoughts and emotions that precede problem behaviors, as well as by solving the problems faced by individuals that contribute to problematic thoughts, feelings and behaviors. In DPT five core skills are practiced; mindfulness, distress tolerance, emotion regulation, the middle path, and interpersonal effectiveness. DBT reduces self-injurious behaviors in BPD patients. But, not all respond. In order to improve treatment for self-injurious behaviors in BPD is important to identify the factors associated with patients who respond to treatment vs. those who don’t.

 

In today’s Research News article “Predicting Treatment Outcomes from Prefrontal Cortex Activation for Self-Harming Patients with Borderline Personality Disorder: A Preliminary Study.” See:

https://www.facebook.com/ContemplativeStudiesCenter/photos/a.628903887133541.1073741828.627681673922429/1293102947380295/?type=3&theater

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

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4870399/

Ruocco and colleagues studied the neural responses of Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) patients who decrease self-injurious behaviors in response to Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) vs. those who don’t respond. Patients had their brains scanned before and after 7-months of DBT. They found that a wide variety of self-harming behaviors were significantly reduced after the DBT. They also found that those patients who responded well and had large reductions in self-harming demonstrated less activation of the Dorsolateral Prefrontal Cortex before treatment than patients who didn’t respond well to treatment. After treatment the patients who responded to therapy showed greater activation of the Dorsolateral Prefrontal Cortex. These relationships were present even after controlling for depression and mania.

 

These are interesting and potentially important results. The Dorsolateral Prefrontal Cortex is known to be involved in behavioral regulations. It appears that patients low in this activation, in other words, low in behavioral regulation, benefit the most from treatment which increases this activity and increases self-control. Hence, these results suggest that BPD patients who respond best to treatment are those whose self-injurious behaviors are exacerbated by lack of ability to regulate behaviors. DBT appears to reduce self-harm by improving the patient’s ability to regulate their self-injurious behaviors. These findings also suggest that the best candidates for DBT are those who lack behavioral regulation ability.

 

So, reduce self-harm with mindfulness-based dialectical behavior therapy.

 

“Mindfulness teaches these teens to experience emotion without acting on it, thus building in a delay to self-harming behavior.” – Pat Harvey

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

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

 

Study Summary

Ruocco, A. C., Rodrigo, A. H., McMain, S. F., Page-Gould, E., Ayaz, H., & Links, P. S. (2016). Predicting Treatment Outcomes from Prefrontal Cortex Activation for Self-Harming Patients with Borderline Personality Disorder: A Preliminary Study. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 10, 220. http://doi.org/10.3389/fnhum.2016.00220

 

Abstract

Self-harm is a potentially lethal symptom of borderline personality disorder (BPD) that often improves with dialectical behavior therapy (DBT). While DBT is effective for reducing self-harm in many patients with BPD, a small but significant number of patients either does not improve in treatment or ends treatment prematurely. Accordingly, it is crucial to identify factors that may prospectively predict which patients are most likely to benefit from and remain in treatment. In the present preliminary study, 29 actively self-harming patients with BPD completed brain-imaging procedures probing activation of the prefrontal cortex (PFC) during impulse control prior to beginning DBT and after 7 months of treatment. Patients that reduced their frequency of self-harm the most over treatment displayed lower levels of neural activation in the bilateral dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) prior to beginning treatment, and they showed the greatest increases in activity within this region after 7 months of treatment. Prior to starting DBT, treatment non-completers demonstrated greater activation than treatment-completers in the medial PFC and right inferior frontal gyrus. Reductions in self-harm over the treatment period were associated with increases in activity in right DLPFC even after accounting for improvements in depression, mania, and BPD symptom severity. These findings suggest that pre-treatment patterns of activation in the PFC underlying impulse control may be prospectively associated with improvements in self-harm and treatment attrition for patients with BPD treated with DBT.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4870399/