Reduced Symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Irritable Bowel Syndrome Following Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Among Veterans

J Altern Complement Med. 2018 Dec;24(12):1159-1165. doi: 10.1089/acm.2018.0135. Epub 2018 Aug 30.


Objectives: Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) are highly comorbid conditions associated with reduced health-related quality of life. Comorbid prevalence is especially high among veterans, ranging from 23% to 51%, but there is limited research on integrative treatments. Design: To improve treatment of comorbid PTSD and IBS, this study examined the impact of mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) on symptom reduction and mindfulness skill building among veterans with this comorbidity. We hypothesized that veterans would report reduced trauma-related, gastrointestinal (GI) symptom-specific anxiety (GSA), and depression symptoms and greater mindfulness skills post-treatment. We also hypothesized that veterans who reported lower trauma-related GSA and depression symptoms, and reported greater mindfulness skills and MBSR session attendance would report lower irritable bowel symptoms post-treatment. Settings/Location: VA (Veterans Administration) Puget Sound Health Care System, Seattle, Washington. Subjects: Participants were 55 veterans with PTSD and IBS. Interventions: Veterans participated in an 8-week open trial of MBSR group. Outcome measures: This study measured the impact of MBSR on PTSD, IBS, GSA, and depression symptoms as well as mindfulness skills. Results: Veterans reported reduced trauma-related, irritable bowel, GSA, and depression symptoms and greater mindfulness skills immediately post-treatment. Trauma-related and depression symptom reduction were maintained 4 months post-treatment, but irritable bowel and GSA symptoms were nonsignificant. Lower baseline GSA predicted lower irritable bowel symptoms immediately post-treatment. At 4 months post-treatment, 77.50% met PTSD criteria and 40.38% met IBS criteria compared with 100% veteran comorbidity pretreatment. Conclusions: MBSR holds promise as a transdiagnostic intervention for individuals with comorbid trauma-related, depression, GSA, and irritable bowel symptoms, with maintenance of trauma-related and depression symptom improvement 4 months post-treatment.

Keywords: depression; digestive system; mindfulness-based stress reduction; trauma; veterans.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Behavior Therapy / methods*
  • Comorbidity
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome / epidemiology
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome / therapy*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mindfulness / methods*
  • Prevalence
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / epidemiology
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / therapy*
  • Stress, Psychological / therapy*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Veterans / psychology*
  • Washington / epidemiology