, Volume 5, Issue 3, pp 314–321 | Cite as

The Importance of Non-reactivity to Posttraumatic Stress Symptoms: A Case for Mindfulness

  • Kathleen Sullivan KalillEmail author
  • Michael Treanor
  • Lizabeth Roemer


Mindfulness has shown promise in the treatment of several disorders, but the empirical literature regarding mindfulness and post-traumatic stress symptoms is limited. The current study examined the relationship among self-reported levels of mindfulness facets and post-traumatic stress symptoms after controlling for negative affect, age, number of traumas, and years since the trauma occurred. Participants were 157 students at an urban commuter university who completed measures online and endorsed experiencing fear, horror, or helplessness during a potentially traumatic event. Participants were predominantly female (77 %) and ranged in age from 18 to 64 years (mean = 26, SD = 4.73). Results indicated that the ability to describe emotional experiences was uniquely associated with lower hyperarousal scores, while non-reactivity to inner experiences was uniquely associated with lower overall post-traumatic stress symptoms, as well as lower re-experiencing and hyperarousal scores. Results are discussed in terms of the potential for mindfulness as an intervention for post-traumatic stress symptoms.


Posttraumatic stress Mindfulness Non-reactivity Anxiety Trauma 


  1. American Psychiatric Association. (2000). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (4th ed., text rev.). Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association.Google Scholar
  2. Arch, J. J., & Craske, M. G. (2006). Mechanisms of mindfulness: Emotion regulation following a focused breathing induction. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 44, 1849–1858.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Asmundson, G. J. G., Wright, K. D., McCreary, D. R., & Pedlar, D. (2003). Posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms in United Nations peacekeepers: An examination of factor structure in peacekeepers with and without chronic pain. Cognitive Behavior Therapy, 32, 26–37.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Baer, R. A., Smith, G. T., & Allen, K. B. (2004). Assessment of mindfulness by self-report: The Kentucky Inventory of Mindfulness Skills. Assessment, 11(3), 191–206.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Baer, R., Smith, G., Hopkins, J., Krietemeyer, J., & Toney, L. (2006). Using self-report assessment methods to explore facets of mindfulness. Assessment, 13(1), 27–45.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Barlow, D. H. (2002). Anxiety and its disorders: The nature and treatment of anxiety and panic. New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  7. Bernstein, A., Tanay, G., & Vujanovic, A. A. (2011). Concurrent relations between mindful attention and psychopathology among trauma-exposed adults: Preliminary evidence of transdiagnostic resilience. Journal of Cognitive Psychotherapy: An International Quarterly, 25(2), 99–113.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Blanchard, E. B., Jones-Alexander, J., Buckley, T. C., & Forneris, C. A. (1996). Psychometric properties of the PTSD checklist (PCL). Behaviour Research and Therapy, 34(8), 669–673.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Bliese, P. D., Wright, K., Adler, A. B., Cabrera, O., Hoge, C. W., & Castro, C. A. (2008). Validating the primary care posttraumatic stress disorder screen and the posttraumatic stress disorder checklist with soldiers returning from combat. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 76, 272–281.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Brown, K. W., & Ryan, R. M. (2003). The benefits of being present: Mindfulness and its role in psychological well-being. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84, 822–848.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Brown, K. W., & Ryan, R. M. (2004). Perils and promise in defining and measuring mindfulness: Observations from experience. Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice, 11(3), 242–248.Google Scholar
  12. Crawford, J. R., & Henry, J. D. (2004). The Positive and Negative Affect Schedule (PANAS): Construct validity, measurement properties and normative data in a large non-linical sample. British Journal of Clinical Psychology, 43, 245–265.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Dalrymple, K., & Herbert, J. (2007). Acceptance and commitment therapy for generalized social anxiety disorder: A pilot study. Behavior Modification, 31(5), 543–568.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Grossman, P. (2011). Defining mindfulness by how poorly I think I pay attention during everyday awareness and other intractable problems for psychology’s (re)invention of mindfulness: Comment on Brown et al. (2011). Psychological Assessment, 23(4), 1034–1040.Google Scholar
  15. Hayes, S. C., & Shenk, C. (2004). Operationalizing mindfulness without unnecessary attachments. Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice, 11(3), 249–254.Google Scholar
  16. Hayes, S. C., Strosahl, K., & Wilson, K. G. (1999). Acceptance and commitment therapy: An experiential approach to behavior change. New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  17. Kabat-Zinn, J. (1982). An outpatient program in behavioral medicine for chronic pain patients based on the practice of mindfulness meditation: Theoretical considerations and preliminary results. General Hospital Psychiatry, 4(1), 33–47.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Kearney, D. J., Mcdermott, K., Malte, C., Martinez, M., & Simpson, T. L. (2012). Effects of participation in a mindfulness program for veterans with posttraumatic stress disorder: A randomized controlled pilot study. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 32(6), 413–420.Google Scholar
  19. Kimbrough, E., Magyari, T., Langenberg, P., Chesney, M., & Berman, B. (2010). Mindfulness intervention for child abuse survivors. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 66, 17–33.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  20. King, D. W., Leskin, G. A., King, L. A., & Weathers, F. W. (1998). Confirmatory factor analysis of the clinician-administered PTSD scale: Evidence for the dimensionality of posttraumatic stress disorder. Psychological Assessment, 10, 90–96.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Lieberman, M. D., Eisenberger, N. I., Crockett, M. J., Tom, S. M., Pfeifer, J. H., & Way, B. M. (2007). Putting feelings into words: Affect labeling disrupts amygdala activity to affective stimuli. Psychological Science, 18, 421–442.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Niles, B. L., Klunk-Gillis, J., Ryngala, D. J., Silberbogen, A. K., Paysnick, A., & Wolf, E. J. (2011). Comparing mindfulness and psychoeducation treatment for combat-related PTSD using a telehealth approach. Psychological trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy, 4(5), 538–547.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Owens, G. P., Walter, K. H., Chard, K. M., & Davis, P. A. (2012). Changes in mindfulness skills and treatment response among veterans in residential PTSD treatment. Psychological trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy, 4(2), 221–228.Google Scholar
  24. Palmieri, P. A., & Fitzgerald, L. F. (2005). Confirmatory factor analysis of posttraumatic stress symptoms in sexually harassed women. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 18, 657–666.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Roemer, L., Orsillo, S., & Salters-Pedneault, K. (2008). Efficacy of an acceptance-based behavior therapy for generalized anxiety disorder: Evaluation in a randomized controlled trial. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 76(6), 1083–1089.PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Rothbaum, B. O., Foa, E. B., Riggs, D., Murchoch, T., & Walsh, W. (1992). A prospective examination of post-traumatic stress disorder in rape victims. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 5, 455–475.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Segal, Z. V., Williams, J. M. G., & Teasdale, J. D. (2002). Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy for depression: A new approach to preventing relapse. New York: Guilford.Google Scholar
  28. Thompson, B. L., & Waltz, J. (2010). Mindfulness and experiential avoidance as predictors of posttraumatic stress disorder avoidance symptom severity. Journal of Anxiety Disorders, 24, 409–415.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Tull, M. T., Barrett, H. M., McMillan, E. S., & Roemer, L. (2007). A preliminary investigation of the relationship between emotion regulation difficulties and posttraumatic stress symptoms. Behavior Therapy, 38, 303–313.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Vrana, S. R., & Lauterbach, D. (1994). Prevalence of traumatic events and post-traumatic psychological symptoms in a nonclinical sample of college students. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 7, 289–302.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Vujanovic, A., Youngwirth, N., Johnson, K., & Zvolensky, M. (2009). Mindfulness-based acceptance and posttraumatic stress symptoms among trauma-exposed adults without Axis I psychopathology. Journal of Anxiety Disorders, 23(2), 297–303.PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Vujanovic, A. A., Bonn-Miller, M. O., Bernstein, A. M., McKee, L. G., & Zvolensky, M. J. (2010). Incremental validity of mindfulness skills in relation to emotional dysregulation among a young adult community sample. Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, 39(3), 203–213.PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Wahbeh, H., Lu, M., & Oken, B. (2011). Mindful awareness and non-judging in relation to posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms. Mindfulness, 2, 219–227.PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Walker, E., Newman, E., Dobie, D., Ciechanowski, P., & Katon, W. (2002). Validation of the PTSD checklist in an HMO sample of women. General Hospital Psychiatry, 24(6), 375–380.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Walser, R. D., & Hayes, S. C. (2006). Acceptance and commitment therapy and trauma survivors. In V. Follette (Ed.), Trauma in context: A cognitive behavioral approach to trauma (2nd ed.). New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  36. Watson, D., Clark, L., & Tellegen, A. (1988). Development and validation of brief measures of positive and negative affect: The PANAS scales. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 54(6), 1063–1070.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Weathers, F., Litz, B., Herman, D., Huska, J., & Keane, T. (1993). The PTSD checklist (PCL): Reliability, validity, and diagnostic utility. San Antonio: Paper presented at the Annual Convention of the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kathleen Sullivan Kalill
    • 1
    Email author
  • Michael Treanor
    • 1
  • Lizabeth Roemer
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of Massachusetts BostonBostonUSA

Personalised recommendations