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Title: Psychophysiological responses to a self-compassion meditation in trauma-exposed individuals
Author: Storr, Joanne
ISNI:       0000 0004 5372 8716
Awarding Body: University of Exeter
Current Institution: University of Exeter
Date of Award: 2015
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Research has shown that a self-compassion meditation exercise in healthy individuals reduced negative affect, negative cognitions about the self and sympathetic arousal and also enhanced positive emotions and parasympathetic activity (Kirschner, Karl, & Kuyken, 2013). Beneficial effects of self-compassion, i.e., being kind and considerate to one’s self with the acknowledgement that pain cannot always be fixed or solved (Neff, 2003; Gilbert, 2009), for mental health and well-being have been previously demonstrated. This research tested the hypothesis that meditation can also be beneficial for individuals who survived psychological trauma and have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a disorder characterised by elevated physiological arousal and negative post-traumatic cognitions about the self. This study used self-report and physiological measures such as Heart-Rate (HR), Heart-Rate Variability (HRV), and Skin Conductance Level (SCL) in a trauma-exposed sample (N =56) with and without PTSD. It was revealed that both groups show significant meditation-induced reductions in state self-criticism and sympathetic arousal (HR, SCL). However, the study only found the expected pattern of significantly elevated state self-compassion and parasympathetic activation (HRV) induced by a self-compassion meditation in the non-PTSD group. This suggests that, interpreting these findings within Gilbert’s three affect regulatory systems, a single self-compassion meditation was sufficient to reduce threat in all trauma survivors and to activate the safety system in the non-PTSD group but not to initiate safety and connectedness in PTSD patients.
Supervisor: Karl, Anke ; Kuyken, Willem Sponsor: University of Exeter
Qualification Name: Thesis (D.Clin.Psych.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: PTSD ; self-compassion ; loving-kindness ; psychophysiology ; emotion regulation