Obsessive-compulsive and related disorders are common and prevalent mental health problems. They include obsessive-compulsive disorder, body-dysmorphic disorder, trichotillomania, hoarding disorder, and skin-picking disorder. It is estimated that as many as 1 in 20 people will experience any of these disorders during their lives.
In the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, where mental health problems are on the rise, it is more important than ever that we understand how easily accessible treatments such as mindfulness can help people with obsessive compulsive and related disorders cope with their symptoms and related mental health problems. To find out how mindfulness can help people with obsessive-compulsive and related disorders cope with their symptoms, we did a systematic review and meta-analysis of studies that tested the effectiveness of mindfulness-based interventions in this group of people across the globe.
We found that mindfulness-based therapies were moderately effective in reducing symptoms of obsessive-compulsive and related disorders as well as depression. However, these effects did not continue after the end of the treatment as some patients relapsed. The most promising mindfulness-based therapies for reducing symptoms of obsessive-compulsive and related disorders and depression were the acceptance and commitment therapy, and the mindfulness-based cognitive therapy.
One interesting preliminary finding is that patients from lower- and middle-income countries appear to benefit more from mindfulness interventions than those from western or higher income countries. Although future larger studies are needed to fully understand this finding, it is possible that mindfulness-based therapies can be especially helpful for people living in low-resource settings and have very little additional support available.
To sum up, our findings are encouraging and support the use of mindfulness-based therapies for treating people with obsessive compulsive and related disorders. Going forward, we call for long-term data to confirm our findings as well as larger studies done among people with hoarding and skin-picking disorder.
Pseftogianni, F., Panagioti, M., Birtwell, K., & Angelakis, I. (2023). Mindfulness interventions for obsessive–compulsive and related disorders: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1037/cps0000132
- Can acceptance and commitment therapy and mindfulness-based cognitive therapy be superior to simple mindfulness techniques for mental health problems, and why is that?
- How could we improve the long-term effectiveness of mindfulness interventions?
- Why do patients from lower/middle income countries seem to respond better to mindfulness interventions?
- Why do patients with comorbid depression not respond as well as those with no such symptoms?
About the Authors
Dr Ioannis Angelakis, BSc, MSc, PgDip, BCBA, PhD, is a Lecturer in Clinical Psychology at the University of Liverpool and Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Manchester. He is a psychologist by background and interested in improving psychological treatments for mental health problems and service delivery in those seeking treatment. Dr. Angelakis can be contacted at email@example.com or via Twitter at @drangelakis
Foteini Pseftogianni, BSc, MSc, PgDip, is a Psychological Wellbeing Practitioner at Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust. She works within the IAPT service providing high volume interventions to clients with anxiety and depressive symptoms. She is interested in psychological interventions and improving people’s lives. Foteini Pseftogianni can be contacted at Foteini.Pseftogianni@nsft.nhs.uk
Dr Kelly Birtwell, BA, DipCouns, PGDip, MA, MSc, PhD, is a Research Fellow at the University of Manchester. She is a Chartered Psychologist, counsellor and mindfulness teacher, interested in the development and delivery of psychological interventions to support underserved groups. Dr Birtwell can be contacted at Kelly.firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter at @Kelly_B5
Dr Maria Panagioti, BSc, MSc, PhD, is a psychologist by background and her work spans in mental health care and health services research. Dr Panagioti is based within the NIHR School for Primary Care Research and leads the Safer Care Systems and Transitions research theme within the NIHR Greater Manchester Patient Safety Translational Research Centre. Dr. Panagioti can be contacted at email@example.com or via Twitter at @dr_mpanagioti