What is Mindfulness Therapy?
Mindfulness-based therapy (MBT) is used extensively to treat various physical and psychological disorders including depression, chronic pain and anxiety. In this, principles found in Buddhism and other spiritual practices are applied clinically for the treatment of patients suffering from pain or mental illnesses. These techniques are very beneficial, especially to older adults, as they involve restoring peace of mind and tranquillity, qualities that make older adults less vulnerable.
MBT concentrates on the acceptance of physical and psychological illnesses in a non-judgmental manner instead of dwelling on the problems and making them traumatic for themselves.
In the late 1970s, mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) was practiced to treat chronic pain. Later, it was extended to include psychological illnesses with positive results.
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Mindfulness and Somatization Disorders
Older adults suffering from somatization disorders or psychosomatic or somatoform disorders have chronic and medically unexplained pains. These pains cannot be treated, but they cause enough discomfort and distress to the person to make their lives miserable. Some somatic disorders include specific irritations like chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and fibromyalgia (widespread musculoskeletal pain with fatigue, sleep loss, memory loss, and mood swings).
Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is beneficial to quite an extent in treating somatization disorders. The cognitive models used in CBT provide an appropriate theoretical framework for recognizing the extent and type of these disorders.
However, there are certain limitations in CBT that do not allow a person with psychosomatic disorders to become completely normal. For example, only 30% of patients with CFS can recover fully after conventional CBT.
To counter this problem, a new approach called mindfulness-based therapy (MBT) was applied in combination with CBT with satisfactory results. In fact, certain studies showed nearly 100% results in the improvement rate.
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Mindfulness for Fibromyalgia
Fibromyalgia is a chronic pain syndrome where the pain is widespread with no known medical cause. Other symptoms of fibromyalgia are sleeplessness, depression, anxiety, and mood swings. More than 50% of the older adults undergoing CBT and MBT for fibromyalgia have shown marked improvement after the treatment.
Mindfulness for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS)
An older adult with CFS suffers from severe fatigue lasting for more than 6 months. It is usually accompanied by impairment in physical psychological, cognitive and social functioning. MBT is known to have a significant positive effect on CFS.
Mindfulness for Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
IBS is a very common disorder, affecting 5-11% of the population, a majority of the older adults. Psychological treatments like CBT, psychodynamic therapy and hypnosis can help up to a point in treating IBS. If MBT is combined with these techniques, patients show significant improvement.
Mindfulness for somatization disorders (non-specified)
Controlled trials of MBT for older adults with non-specified somatization disorders were conducted to study the effect of CBT+MBT on the psychology of the patient. Significant and prolonged improvement in clinical outcomes was observed in these patients following MBT.
Mindfulness-based therapy is a low-cost way to tackle the problem of somatoform disorders in older adults. Due to its high rate of positive results and cheap costs, MBT is now slowly being included in treatment programmes for somatization disorders.
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