Improve Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (CPTSD) Symptoms with Online Mindfulness Training
By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.
“Mindfulness can help people train themselves to get unstuck from a vicious cycle of negative thinking, often a cornerstone of trauma.” – Jennifer Wolkin
Experiencing trauma is quite common. It has been estimated that 60% of men and 50% of women will experience a significant traumatic event during their lifetime. But only a fraction will develop Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). But this still results in a frightening number of people with 7%-8% of the population developing PTSD at some point in their life.
PTSD involves a number of troubling symptoms including reliving the event with the same fear and horror in nightmares or with a flashback. PTSD sufferers avoid situations that remind them of the event this may include crowds, driving, movies, etc. and may avoid seeking help because it keeps them from having to think or talk about the event. They often experience negative changes in beliefs and feelings including difficulty experiencing positive or loving feelings toward other people, avoiding relationships, memory difficulties, or see the world as dangerous and no one can be trusted. Sufferers may feel hyperarousal, feeling keyed up and jittery, or always alert and on the lookout for danger. They may experience sudden anger or irritability, may have a hard time sleeping or concentrating, may be startled by a loud noise or surprise.
Recently, a new category has emerged of Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (CPTSD) that meets the criterion for PTSD but has the additional symptoms of disturbances in self-organization including affect dysregulation, negative self-concept, and disturbances in relationships. There are a number of therapies that have been developed to treat PTSD. Mindfulness-based therapies have been shown to be particularly effective. But it is not known if mindfulness-based therapies are also effective for CPTSD.
In today’s Research News article “Effects of Mindfulness-Based Internet Intervention on ICD-11 Posttraumatic Stress Disorder and Complex Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Symptoms: a Pilot Randomized Controlled Trial.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8435188/ ) Dumarkaite and colleagues recruited college students who had been exposed to trauma including natural disasters, accidents, physical or sexual abuse, or assault. They were randomly assigned to either a wait-list control condition or to receive 8 weekly online mindfulness trainings sessions. They were measured before and after training for traumatic experiences, symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (CPTSD), anxiety, depression, positive mental health, and satisfaction and usability of the online program.
They found that in comparison to baseline and the wait-list control group, the participants who received online mindfulness training had significant decreases in disturbances in self-organization including negative self-concept, and disturbances in relationships and increases in positive mental health. In addition, satisfaction and usability of the online program was high. But they did not find significant changes in PTSD symptoms. Because of the improvements in self-concept, relationships, and mental health it is likely that online mindfulness training is effective for Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (CPTSD).
These results are disappointing in that Mindfulness training has been shown in multiple studies to be effective in improving the symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The difference here is that the mindfulness training was online. This raises the possibility that the interpersonal connections involved in the face-to-face delivery of mindfulness training which is usually delivered in groups is essential for the success of the therapy in treating PTSD.
So, improve Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (CPTSD) symptoms with online mindfulness training.
“Trauma and presence (or mindfulness) cannot coexist. Thus, mindfulness practices can help bring trauma victims back to the present and heal from disturbing past events.” – Jason Linder
CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies
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Dumarkaite, A., Truskauskaite-Kuneviciene, I., Andersson, G., Mingaudaite, J., & Kazlauskas, E. (2021). Effects of Mindfulness-Based Internet Intervention on ICD-11 Posttraumatic Stress Disorder and Complex Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Symptoms: a Pilot Randomized Controlled Trial. Mindfulness, 1–13. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12671-021-01739-w
A substantial proportion of trauma survivors with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and complex PTSD (CPTSD) continue to experience symptoms even after trauma-focused therapies. Internet-based interventions could facilitate access to treatment for PTSD and CPTSD. The current pilot study aimed to investigate the effects of mindfulness-based internet intervention on PTSD and CPTSD symptoms.
A randomized controlled trial (RCT) design with two measurement points (pre-test and post-test) was used to investigate the effects of a structured mindfulness-based internet intervention on PTSD and CPTSD symptoms as well as anxiety, depression, and positive mental health. In total, 70 university students with high levels of PTSD and CPTSD symptoms based on ICD-11 criteria participated in the study: 31 in the intervention group and 39 in the waiting list control group.
We found that the mindfulness-based internet intervention reduced CPTSD disturbances in self-organization (DSO) symptoms (ES = − 0.48 [− 0.96; 0.00]), particularly negative self-concept (ES = − 0.72 [− 1.21; − 0.24]) and disturbances in relationships (ES = − 0.55 [− 1.03; − 0.07]). Moreover, the intervention reduced the symptoms of PTSD sense of threat (ES = − 0.48 [− 0.96; − 0.01]) and promoted positive mental health (ES = 0.51 [0.03; 0.99]). High user satisfaction and good usability of the intervention were reported.
Promising treatment effects were found, indicating that mindfulness-based internet intervention can reduce CPTSD symptoms and have a positive effect on mental health among youth in general. The findings of the current study contribute to the further development of trauma care using internet-delivered interventions.