Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) is an established program shown to reduce symptoms of stress, anxiety, and depression. MBSR is believed to alter emotional responding by modifying cognitive-affective processes. Given that social anxiety disorder (SAD) is characterized by emotional and attentional biases as well as distorted negative self-beliefs, we examined MBSR-related changes in the brain-behavior indices of emotional reactivity and regulation of negative self-beliefs in patients with SAD. Sixteen patients underwent functional MRI while reacting to negative self-beliefs and while regulating negative emotions using 2 types of attention deployment emotion regulation-breath-focused attention and distraction-focused attention. Post-MBSR, 14 patients completed neuroimaging assessments. Compared with baseline, MBSR completers showed improvement in anxiety and depression symptoms and self-esteem. During the breath-focused attention task (but not the distraction-focused attention task), they also showed (a) decreased negative emotion experience, (b) reduced amygdala activity, and (c) increased activity in brain regions implicated in attentional deployment. MBSR training in patients with SAD may reduce emotional reactivity while enhancing emotion regulation. These changes might facilitate reduction in SAD-related avoidance behaviors, clinical symptoms, and automatic emotional reactivity to negative self-beliefs in adults with SAD.
- social anxiety
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