Mindfulness and self-compassion as predictors of functional outcomes and psychopathology in OEF/OIF veterans exposed to trauma
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Self-compassion is a psychological construct that involves being open to experiencing one's pain and suffering and directing feelings of kindness inwards during moments of distress. Research has found that high levels of self-compassion are negatively associated with depression, anxiety, rumination, and avoidance, and positively associated with overall quality of life. The present study looked at self-compassion as a predictor of psychopathology and functional outcomes in a sample of trauma-exposed OEF/OIF veterans. Baseline data was used from Project PREDICT from of the Department of Veteran Affairs VISN 17 Center of Excellence for Research with Returning War Veterans. The relations among self-compassion, mindfulness, and experiential avoidance were analyzed. Structural equation modeling was used and results found that higher levels of self-compassion and mindfulness predicted lower levels of psychopathology and higher overall functioning. In addition, experiential avoidance partially or fully mediated the association between mindfulness and self-compassion and PTSD symptoms, psychological distress, and functionality. Supplemental regression analyses were also conducted examining the relationship between mindfulness and self-compassion with several outcome variables. Results found that self-compassion significantly contributed to the model predicting acceptance of chronic pain. In addition, mindfulness significantly contributed to the model predicting problematic alcohol use. These findings suggest that inclusion of acceptance-based interventions, specifically self-compassion and mindfulness, may improve emotional distress as well as overall functioning in trauma-exposed combat veterans.