A new study published by Biological Psychiatry has shown that 8 weeks of mindfulness training can aid patients attempting to overcome phobias and anxiety disorders.
A common way to treat phobias is a method called “exposure training,” whereby patients are exposed in small increments to the things they fear in a controlled environment. Patients experiencing these disorders often form associations between a memory and fear; therefore the first step in exposure therapy is creating a link between a memory and safety.
Utilizing MRI scans to measure attentiveness and memory, a trial was conducted with 42 participants — with half in a control group — and it was found that an eight week mindfulness intervention course may increase openness to new experiences, allow participants to focus on the moment, and help retain the positive memory of safety.
The conditions under which a patient is exposed to that which they fear is what the study refers to as “exposure conditions.” Optimizing exposure conditions is what leads to the most positive results of the therapy.
The study states that mindfulness training works to optimize exposure conditions by “heightening attention and awareness of present moment sensory experience, leading to enhanced extinction learning [the therapy method], improved emotion regulation, and reduced anxiety symptoms.
While there is work to be done to corroborate these results with a wider sample size, the study highlights the effectiveness of the Orange Bike Mind (OBM) Model; Open, Focus, Control.
In our view, this study demonstrates how mindfulness aids patients to handle negative experiences (open), invites them to pay attention to the old experience (focus), and most importantly position the negative experience as a past event (control).
To read the entire study from the November 2019 issue of Biological Psychiatry, click here