The Role of Self-Compassion in Understanding and Predicting Vulnerabilities To PTSD

December 11, 2019 in News

In a conversation about PTSD, my colleague, Pat Ogden, PhD told me that many of her clients struggling with PTSD also had insecure attachments. Often, these clients were veterans whose insecure attachments predisposed them to develop PTSD after combat.

This conversation got me wondering whether there were other predictors of PTSD aside from insecure attachment.

And, according to a study published in the Journal of Traumatic Stress in 2015, there is.

Regina Hiraoka, PhD, a researcher at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, conducted a prospective study with her team to look at how self-compassion relates to the severity of PTSD symptoms.

In the study, 115 ex-combat veterans who had served in Iraq or Afghanistan completed three tests measuring PTSD symptom severity, combat exposure, and their level of self-compassion. PTSD symptoms were determined from the Clinician-Administered PTSD Scale for DSM-IV (CAPS). This exam is considered one of the most reliable tests of PTSD.

The participants took two other exams, both self-assessments. The first of these asked the veterans to rate their level of combat exposure by number and intensity. The other was the Self-Compassion Scale (SCS), a self-reported assessment developed by Kristen Neff, PhD measuring self-compassion. The SCS is the most psychometrically sound assessment of self-compassion to date.

So here’s what Hiraoka and her team found . . .

Of the 115 veterans, 73 reported having symptoms of PTSD from combat exposure at some point in their past while 43 had current symptoms.

Of those who had experienced PTSD at any point, a strong negative association was found between self-compassion and PTSD symptom severity. Those with more severe PTSD symptoms also scored lower in self-compassion.

One key predictor of PTSD could play a role in future trauma treatment. Click To Tweet

Now, here’s the interesting part – when 101 participants returned for a re-assessment 12 months later . . .

. . . researchers found that self-compassion could also predict PTSD symptom severity – even after 12 months.

You see, those who scored higher on self-compassion during the first round of assessments returned with less severe symptoms of PTSD than those with initially lower self-compassion.

So what do we do with this information?

Well this research suggests that we might want to find some way to promote self-compassion in veterans in order to reduce the predisposition for PTSD.

If you’d like to read this study for yourself, you can find it in the Journal of Traumatic Stress, volume 28, edition 2, pp. 127-133.

And if you’d like to hear more of the latest research and strategies in trauma treatment, please join us for this week’s free broadcast in the Treating Trauma Master Series.

It’s free to watch at the time of broadcast; you just have to sign up.

Now, I’d like to hear from you. Have you found any connection between self-compassion and PTSD in your clinical work?

Please leave a comment below.

Role of Heart in Intuition

December 11, 2019 in News

Intuition is the process of perceiving or knowing something without conscious reasoning: knowledge of events such as an act of nature that has yet to happen; or knowledge of a distant material object such as an unseen obstruction blocking the highway ahead. Researchers with the HeartMath Institute and many others who have conducted numerous controlled and scientifically validated studies over more than half a century have expanded the definition of intuition to include not only conscious perception by the mind alone, but also by the body’s entire psycho- physiological system. This unconscious perception often is evidenced by subtle changes in emotions and measurable physiological changes that can be detected throughout the body, according to the study Electrophysiological Evidence of IntuitionPart 1 and Part 2, McCraty, Atkinson and Bradley, 2004.

“Heart intuition or intelligence brings the freedom and power to accomplish what the mind, even with all the disciplines or affirmations in the world, cannot do if it’s out of sync with the heart.” – The HeartMath Solution, 1999, Childre and Martin

At the center of this ability is the human heart, which encompasses a degree of intelligence whose sophistication and vastness we are continuing to understand and explore. We now know this intelligence may be cultivated to our advantage in many ways.

HeartMath theorizes that intuitive abilities we’re unable to attribute to subconsciously stored memories and experiences or to the conscious brain’s analytic processes, make sense in another context: The body is connected by sensory perception to a field of energy that enfolds the information we attribute to intuition.

To help us understand this concept, consider an established scientific fact in the area of quantum physics that could not be explained by classical physics in the early 20th century: We know there is virtually instantaneous communication of information in the subatomic world between particles separated by vast regions of space and these particles act is if they have knowledge of events before they happen. This “nonlocal communication” seemingly exists outside the confines of space and time as we currently understand them.

“The only real valuable thing is intuition.” – Albert Einstein, 1879 – 1955

View Intuition Research Publications in our Research Library.