Last updated on January 2019

Mindfulness Treatment for Anger in Veterans With PTSD

Brief description of study

Research has consistently shown that Veterans with PTSD are more likely to experience higher levels of anger and commit aggressive acts compared to Veterans without PTSD. Given the significant negative impact that anger and aggression can have on the lives of Veterans, their families, and society at large, there is a great need to examine novel interventions that could decrease anger and aggression risk with this population. Mindfulness may be one such technique, given its effectiveness in assisting individuals in regulating difficult emotions and in decreasing physiological reactivity, which have both been implicated in PTSD and aggression perpetration. Findings showing that a mindfulness intervention is effective in reducing anger and aggressive behavior would be relevant for Veterans with PTSD experiencing such difficulties and would help prevent the detrimental consequences that can come from anger and aggression among these individuals.

Detailed Study Description

Military Veterans suffering from posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) have been shown to exhibit increases in aggressive urges, difficulties managing anger, and difficulties controlling violent behavior. Dysregulated anger and aggression can create fear and distress in spouses, family members, and friends resulting in strained and deteriorated relationships, and can have a detrimental impact on Veterans' social, occupational and other important areas of functioning. In addition, more severe forms of aggression and violent behavior (i.e., homicide) in the community have been observed among Veterans with PTSD, as recently reported in several news media outlets. The seriousness of this problem is underscored by the high rates of alcohol use observed among Veterans with PTSD which further increases anger and the risk of aggressive behavior.

Current therapeutic interventions may not be effective in reducing anger and aggressive behavior among Veterans with PTSD due to the lack of techniques that directly target symptoms most strongly associated with aggression, particularly hyperarousal and physiological reactivity. Furthermore, existing interventions may not be effective in assisting individuals achieve awareness and insight into their anger states, necessary for the effective management of anger and aggression. Mindfulness is rooted in Eastern meditation practices and has been successfully used to decrease stress, pain, anxiety, and depression. In civilian samples, mindfulness interventions have been found to be effective in reducing anger and aggression. To date, mindfulness for anger and aggression has not been examined in Veterans with PTSD.

The primary objective of the proposed investigation is to conduct a pilot randomized control trial to examine the initial efficacy of an established mindfulness intervention, Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) in decreasing anger and aggression in Veterans with PTSD. The proposed investigation also seeks to examine potential mechanisms of action that account for its effects. Sixty Veterans with PTSD experiencing problems with anger and aggression will be recruited. These individuals will attend a baseline session to assess self-reported levels of anger and aggression. They will then be randomly assigned to participate in a PTSD psychoeducational course or MBSR. After completing treatment, all participants will attend a post-treatment session to assess changes in anger and aggression. At this session, participants will also engage in a trauma-imagery procedure using trauma narratives developed at the baseline session. Then, all participants will complete a laboratory paradigm designed to assess provoked aggression. In addition to examining whether participation in MBSR decreases self-reported levels of anger and aggression, this study will examine whether MBSR decreases aggression in participants after being exposed to trauma reminders in vivo. Potential mechanisms of action of MBSR and its effects on additional outcomes also will be explored.

Clinical Study Identifier: NCT02882802

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Recruitment Status: Open

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