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Effects of mindfulness-based interventions on alexithymia: a systematic review
  1. Hilary Norman,
  2. Lisa Marzano,
  3. Mark Coulson,
  4. Andrea Oskis
  1. Faculty of Science and Technology, Middlesex University, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to Hilary Norman, Faculty of Science and Technology, Middlesex University, London NW4 4BT, UK; hn274{at}live.mdx.ac.uk

Abstract

Question Alexithymia has been found to be modifiable through treatment, with associated clinical benefits. Recent studies have begun to test the potential of mindfulness-based interventions to reduce alexithymia, using skills-based, group training to improve non-judgemental, present-moment awareness. The objective of this review therefore was to conduct a systematic synthesis to assess the current state of knowledge about the effect of mindfulness-based interventions on alexithymia to inform clinical practice.

Study selection and analysis We carried out a systematic review of the literature and found four randomised controlled trials of the effect of mindfulness-based interventions on alexithymia, with a combined total of 460 participants.

Findings A random-effects meta-analysis, combining study endpoint data, showed a statistically significant effect of mindfulness-based treatment on alexithymia (Toronto Alexithymia Scale) compared with the control group (mean difference=−5.28, 95% CI −9.28 to −1.28, p=0.010). Subgroup analysis was conducted to investigate sources of heterogeneity (I2=52%). Heterogeneity was reduced when the meta-analysis was restricted to interventions of a similar duration (3 months or less).

Conclusions Findings from our study should be replicated in further research with larger samples; however, the results indicate that mindfulness-based interventions may be an effective treatment in reducing alexithymia.

  • adult psychiatry

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Footnotes

  • Contributors HN designed the study and wrote the protocol with input from LM, AO and MC. Literature searches were carried out by HN. HN, LM, AO and MC screened abstracts against inclusion criteria. HN and LM conducted data extraction and risk of bias assessment. HN conducted the statistical analysis. HN wrote the first draft of the manuscript. LM, AO and MC reviewed subsequent drafts. All authors have contributed to and have approved the final manuscript.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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