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Mindfulness for the Treatment of Stress Disorders

  • Karen Johanne PallesenEmail author
  • Jesper Dahlgaard
  • Lone Fjorback
Part of the Advances in Mental Health and Addiction book series (AMHA)

Abstract

Long-term stress can lead to mental and bodily dysfunctions and diseases. Stress also appears as a companion that worsens the course of existing diseases. Although the evolutionary perspective on stress offers a compelling framework for the increasing occurrence of stress-related disorders in modern societies, the underlying biological mechanisms are not completely understood. In this chapter, we describe the physiological response to stressors (allostasis) and how stress may cause harm to the body (allostatic load). We follow the explanatory track from epigenetic influences via altered gene expression to pathological changes. We finally discuss the effects of mindfulness-based interventions on these changes. Can the damage be reversed?

Stress-induced modulation of physiological processes may account for a group of poorly understood “functional” disorders, commonly labelled as “medically unexplained symptoms”, “functional somatic syndromes”, or “bodily distress syndrome”. In our research clinic, we use mindfulness-based stress reduction to treat patients with these disorders. The beneficial effects of the treatment have received increasing support from empirical studies, which indicate that mindfulness-based therapies mediate neuroplastic changes and changes in physiological stress mechanisms. We describe some of the experiences gained and results obtained using mindfulness-based stress reduction in clinical treatment.

Keywords

Long-term stress Stress response Allostasis Allostatic load Evolution Stress mechanisms Stress disorders Genes Mindfulness treatment MBSR Self-empowerment 

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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Karen Johanne Pallesen
    • 1
    Email author
  • Jesper Dahlgaard
    • 2
  • Lone Fjorback
    • 1
  1. 1.The Research Clinic for Functional Disorders and PsychosomaticsAarhus University HospitalAarhus CDenmark
  2. 2.Unit for Psychooncology and Health PsychologyAarhus UniversityAarhus CDenmark

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