This guest blog entry comes from Dr Beth Fordham (@bethanyfordham), describing some research into the use of mindfulness with a skin condition called psoriasis. This post links in with 'Psoriasis Shout Out' - a series of events to raise awareness of the common skin condition which affects over 1.8 million people in the UK.
Mindfulness and Psoriasis by Dr Beth Fordham
A sub-population of people living with the chronic, inflammatory skin condition, psoriasis, believe that it can be exacerbated, or flares can be caused, by stress. Living with any chronic health condition brings with it some additional stress upon an individual, which could leave people trapped in a cycle whereby their psoriasis makes them feel stressed, and this stress might be exacerbating their skin condition. In an attempt to break this cycle, several stress reduction interventions have been trailed for people with psoriasis. Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) has been found to be successful in both reducing clinical symptoms of psoriasis and in reducing anxiety and depression (Fortune et al, 2002). However, just as no one medication suits all patients, no one psychological intervention will either. This was evident from the 40% drop-out rate in Fortune et al’s (2002) study. Mindfulness based cognitive therapy (MBCT) is a secular 8 week course developed from Buddhist basis of meditation. Its core components are to train participants in the skill of paying attention to the here and now, the present
moment sensations, and becoming aware of how often we are living in the past or the future but quite rarely in the present. Once the skills of paying attention to the present moment’s good, bad and boring sensations mindfulness also fosters an acceptance of whatever is found in the present moment- opening the door to pain (physical or emotional) but also to joy. In stepping out of the ‘doing’ mode, where someone is constantly reacting to their surroundings, mindfulness allows people to step into a ‘being’ mode where they can respond with intention rather than a subconscious reaction- which can sometimes lead to more stress.
A recent, small pilot study (13 participants) conducted in Manchester found that participants with psoriasis who attended the MBCT course for 8 weeks had significantly lower self-assessed psoriasis levels and significantly improved quality of life compared with people with psoriasis who had continued with their treatment as usual. The positive results from this small pilot study coupled with findings from interviews (soon to be published) of participant’s experiences on the MBCT course suggest that there is good cause for further more robust trials. Click here for a link to the quantitative study. For a systematic review examining other stress reduction techniques for people with psoriasis please follow this link.
As part of the Manchester Psoriasis Shout Out, on Monday 28 April Peter Morgan from freemindfulness.org will be available to talk about mindfulness at the road show in St Ann's Square in Manchester from 9.30-12.00 and on Wednesday 30 April 2014 Dr Beth Fordham will be providing a free mindfulness taster session 12.30-13.00 at Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust, UK. To register or for more information on the initiative please email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.psoriasisshoutout.co.uk.