Academic journal article Journal of Cognitive Psychotherapy

Concurrent Relations between Mindful Attention and Awareness and Psychopathology among Trauma-Exposed Adults: Preliminary Evidence of Transdiagnostic Resilience

Academic journal article Journal of Cognitive Psychotherapy

Concurrent Relations between Mindful Attention and Awareness and Psychopathology among Trauma-Exposed Adults: Preliminary Evidence of Transdiagnostic Resilience

Article excerpt

This study evaluated the concurrent associations between mindful attention and awareness and psychopathology symptoms among adults exposed to trauma. Participants included 76 adults (35 women; M^sub age^ = 30.0 years, SD = 12.5) who reported experiencing one or more traumatic events. As hypothesized, levels of mindful attention and awareness were significantly negatively associated with levels of posttraumatic stress symptom severity, psychiatric multimorbidity, anxious arousal, and anhedonic depression symptoms, beyond the large, positive effect of number of traumatic event types. In addition, statistical evaluation of the phenomenological pattern of these associations showed that high levels of mindfulness exclusively cooccurred with low levels of psychopathology symptoms or high rates of mental health; whereas low levels of mindfulness did not similarly exclusively co-occur with either low or high levels of psychopathology symptoms but rather co-occurred with a broad range of symptom levels. Findings are conceptualized in terms of transdiagnostic resilience and discussed in regard to extant empirical and theoretical work.

Keywords: mindfulness; mindful attention; traumatic stress; psychopathology; transdiagnostic

There is an ongoing, field-wide effort to study malleable risk and protective factors related to posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD; e.g., Elwood, Hahn, Olatunji, & Williams, 2009). Exposure to traumatic life events is also related to other various forms of psychopathology, including a high prevalence of comorbid disorders among both trauma-exposed individuals and those with PTSD (e.g., Kessler, Sonnega, Bromet, Hughes, & Nelson, 1995). A growing body of transdiagnostic scholarship has thus called for study of the common risk and protective processes underlying trauma-related psychopathology (Harvey, Watkins, Mansell, & Shafran, 2004). Although we know much about risk markers associated with PTSD and other forms of trauma- related psychopathology (e.g., King, Vogt, & King, 2004), there is a relative dearth of empirical knowledge regarding malleable risk and resilience factors and processes underlying the development of psychopathology and recovery following trauma exposure (Elwood et al., 2009; Feldner, Monson, & Friedman, 2007). However, this clinical knowledge is essential to advancing more specialized trauma-related prevention and early intervention efforts (Litz, 2004; McNally, Bryant, & Ehlers, 2003; Zvolensky, Schmidt, Bernstein, & Keough, 2006).

In recent years, various constructs have received increased study with respect to their potential role(s) in the development and maintenance of trauma-related psychopathology (e.g., Elwood et al., 2009; Litz, 2004). One such theoretically and clinically promising variable is mindfulness (e.g., Batten, Orsillo, & Walser, 2005). There are various related conceptual or theoretical perspectives on mindfulness and related operational definitions and measures (Baer, Smith, Hopkins, Krietemeyer, & Toney, 2006; Bishop et al., 2004; Brown & Ryan, 2003; Demick, 2000; Roemer & Orsillo, 2002; Zvolensky, Feldner, Leen-Feldner, & Yartz, 2005). One promising, contemporary conceptual model of mindfulness is focused on mindful attention and awareness (e.g., Follette, Palm, & Pearson, 2006). From this perspective, mindfulness may be conceptualized behaviorally as conscious attention to and awareness of the present moment and our experience of that moment (Brown & Ryan). For the purposes of this article, hereafter we refer to this particular conceptual definition and operationalization of mindfulness as mindful attention and awareness to distinguish it from alternative conceptual perspectives on mindfulness (e.g., self-regulation of attention and nonjudgmental acceptance; Baer, Smith, & Allen, 2004; Bishop et al.).

A growing body of research has documented clinically relevant associations between mindful attention and awareness, specifically, as well as other conceptual and operational definitions of mindfulness, more generally (e. …

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