Mindfulness for the treatment of stress disorders

Karen Johanne Pallesen, Jesper Ovesen Dahlgaard, Lone Overby Fjorback

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingContribution to book/anthologyResearchpeer-review


Abstract (to be included only in the e-Book version)
Long-term stress can lead to mental and bodily dysfunctions and diseases. Stress also
appears as a companion that worsens the course of existing diseases. Although the
evolutionary perspective on stress offers a compelling framework for the increasing
occurrence of stress-related disorders in modern societies, the underlying biological
mechanisms are not completely understood. In this chapter, we describe the physiological
response to stressors (allostasis), and how stress may cause harm to the body (allostatic
load). We follow the explanatory track from epigenetic influences via altered gene
expression to pathological changes. We finally discuss the effects of mindfulness-based
interventions on these changes. Can the damage be reversed?
Stress-induced modulation of physiological processes may account for a group of
poorly understood “functional” disorders, commonly labeled as “Medically Unexplained
Symptoms”, “Functional Somatic Syndromes”, or “Bodily Distress Syndrome”. In our
research clinic, we use Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction to treat patients with these
disorders. The beneficial effects of the treatment have received increasing support from
empirical studies, which indicate that mindfulness-based therapies mediate neuroplastic
changes and changes in physiological stress mechanisms. We describe some of the
experiences gained and results obtained using Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction in
clinical treatment.
Keywords: Long-term stress, Stress response, Allostasis, Allostatic load, Evolution, Stress
mechanisms, Stress disorders, Genes, Mindfulness treatment, MBSR, self empowerment
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationMindfulness and Buddhist-Derived Approaches in Mental Health and Addiction : Advances in Mental Health and Addiction
EditorsEdo Shonin, Ven William Van Gordon, Mark Griffiths
Number of pages24
Place of PublicationSwitzerland
Publication date15 Jan 2016
ISBN (Print)978-3-319-22254-7
ISBN (Electronic)978-3-319-22255-4
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jan 2016


  • health, nutrition and quality of life
  • mindfulness

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