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Rhythmia Breath

Mindfulness and Interoceptive Exposure Therapy in Atrial Fibrillation

Atrial fibrillation is the most common cardiac arrhythmia and symptoms overlap with physiological sensations of anxiety. Patients with atrial fibrillation can demonstrate anxiety sensitivity even in the absence of actual atrial fibrillation symptoms. Interoceptive exposure is effective in treating anxiety sensitivity, and recently, mindfulness has been proposed as an enhancement strategy to facilitating inhibitory learning in exposure therapy. This pragmatic study piloted a brief mindfulness and interoceptive exposure treatment for anxiety sensitivity in atrial fibrillation. Eight participants with atrial fibrillation and elevated anxiety sensitivity from a hospital cardiology department participated in the treatment. Anxiety sensitivity significantly decreased during the course of the intervention. These initial findings show proof of concept for this brief intervention in a cardiac-specific behavioural medicine setting.

This is the first known study to employ mindfulness and IE for AS related to Atrial Fibrillation symptoms.

Preliminary findings from a pilot randomized controlled trial of mindfulness and interoceptive exposure for anxiety sensitivity in Atrial Fibrillation.

  • Early findings suggest an 8-hour intervention results in significant reduction in AS.
  • Mindful exposures may increase awareness, defusion, and acceptance of feared sensations through facilitating new learning that competes with prior learned associations.
  • Preliminary results show promise for the efficacy of this brief intervention in a cardiac-specific behavioural medicine setting.

Oser M1,2Khan A3Kolodziej M1,2Gruner G1,2Barsky AJ1,2Epstein L1,2.

Author information

1Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston, MA, USA.
2Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA.
3Suffolk University, Boston, MA, USA.