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5 Psychological Conditions That Mindfulness-Based Therapies Can Treat

By Catherine Gordon
Updated February 7, 2015

With origins in the Buddhist tradition, the concept of mindfulness involves centering your full attention on the present moment without allowing judgments to influence your emotions and sensory experiences.
In the modern-day Western world, the achievement of mindfulness is often approached through meditation, which is not only utilized by individuals in daily life but also used in clinical psychology programs to benefit patients’ well-being.

Mindfulness-based therapies are tailored toward treating the symptoms of specific psychological conditions that impair one’s quality of life. If you or a loved one is diagnosed with one of the following five mental conditions, then read on to learn more about how therapies developed around mindfulness can help.


Symptoms: People with depression may experience low moods, persistent sadness and feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness, all of which have a negative effect on general functioning and well-being.

Mindfulness Therapy Treatment: Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT), which combines the cognitive therapy approach of depression education with the mindfulness approach of using meditation to accept present thoughts without internalizing them. Patients learn to recognize and process depressive feelings while not succumbing to a negative reaction.

Studies show that MBCT is beneficial for people who are both actively depressed and those who are trying to prevent a relapse in their condition.

Borderline Personality Disorder

Symptoms: Borderline personality disorder is characterized by symptoms including extreme impulsivity, emotional instability, fear of abandonment, and thoughts of harming one’s self. People with this disorder often have difficulties with interpersonal relationships.

Mindfulness Therapy Treatment: Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), which uses mindfulness as a foundation for providing patients with the coping skills needed to alter self-harming thoughts and behaviors. Along with the mindfulness meditation component, which targets focusing on an objective view of emotions, DBT also involves modules known as distress tolerance, emotion regulation and interpersonal effectiveness.

A study of DBT in relation to borderline personality disorder shows that patients with major emotional reactions and hyperactivity can benefit from this mindfulness-based approach.


Symptoms: Anxiety and stress-related disorders may involve symptoms such as discomfort in situations, rumination on unpleasant thoughts, feelings of intense dread, restlessness and nervousness. People with these conditions experience great emotional turmoil.

Mindfulness Therapy Treatment: Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR), which aims to reduce stress and encourage a more relaxed existence by combining mindfulness meditation with the practices of yoga and body awareness. This treatment program involves an intense focus on one’s own bodily regions while practicing the mindfulness technique of being present in each moment.

Various studies of MBSR, including one on veterans with major anxiety and stress, have yielded promising results.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

Symptoms: The symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder may manifest as extremely rigid behaviors and rituals, such as counting items or cleaning one’s surroundings, in an attempt to alleviate thoughts rooted in fear, apprehension, anxiety or paranoia.

Mindfulness Therapy Treatment: Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), which is designed to ease psychological and behavioral rigidity through strategies that allow patients to accept and own their feelings while gaining the tools needed to avoid acting upon those feelings.

The mindfulness component of ACT encourages patients to become more flexible in their behavior patterns and to stay present in triggering situations rather than avoid them altogether.

One study examines the positive effects of ACT on a patient with an obsessive-compulsive disorder diagnosis.

Conduct Disorder

Symptoms: A severe personality disorder affecting children and teenagers, conduct disorder often results in violations of the law and of others’ rights due to persistent antisocial behavioral patterns.

Pin It Mindfulness Therapy Treatment: Mode deactivation therapy (MDT), which draws on elements of mindfulness for the purpose of guiding patients toward finding alternatives to dysfunctional behaviors and thought processes.

As patients approach their thoughts and feelings with a mindfulness perspective, therapists validate and clarify these experiences before encouraging redirection toward more positive coping behaviors.

To date, studies have focused on adolescent males with conduct disorder and have concluded that MDT is significantly effective in discouraging negative emotions and actions.


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Katherine Hurst
By Catherine Gordon
Catherine Gordon (PhD) has a background teaching and researching analytic philosophy. She is also a practising therapist who works with individuals and couples on issues relating to relationship difficulties, emotional well-being and self-improvement.

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