Joelle Fa 1
Alice Shires 2
Bruno Cayoun 3
1 Graduate School of Health, University of Technology Sydney, Sydney, NSW, Australia
2 University of Technology Sydney, Sydney, NSW, Australia
3 Mindfulness-integrated CBT Institute, Hobart, TAS, Australia
Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS), when severe, is a debilitating experience shared by more than 80% of women throughout their lifetime. Many women prefer non-pharmacological treatments to avoid side effects and contraindications they may incur. Mindfulness-based strategies have demonstrated effectiveness in reducing distress in chronic pain patients, through learning greater acceptance and non-judgement of pain. However, not all women with PMS are amenable to undergo a full mindfulness-based program and maintain daily practice. Accordingly, the following pilot study applied a task extracted from a second-generation MBI, Mindfulness-integrated Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, which consisted of a self-guided 30-second mindfulness-based interoceptive exposure task (MIET), to painful and distressing sensations in 9 women who endorsed moderate to severe PMS. Participants using the MIET repeatedly over three menstrual cycles learned not to identify with pain, by focussing on the subcomponents of interoception (mass, motion, temperature and cohesiveness), while remaining equanimous.
Results did not find a significant effect of treatment on distress within session, however, distress between post-treatment and follow-up sessions showed a significant decrease F (2, 23) = 3.75, p < .05. Neither was there a significant decrease in pain catastrophising, premenstrual symptom severity, menstrual attitudes, nor emotional distress, however preliminary data showed a trending decrease on all measures. Belief in the predictability of the onset of menstruation was the only exception, which increased significantly from pre-treatment to follow-up. Despite this, participants reported the tool to be relatively acceptable, and qualitative data saw themes of increased manageability and acceptability of pain emerge.
Despite limitations, preliminary findings offer valuable insight into the feasibility of the MIET as a transdiagnostic tool as applied to a particularly complex socioemotional and physiological disorder that is PMS. Overall, our findings are sufficiently provocative to warrant further exploration of such a novel tool within an important domain of female health.