Interoception in Psychiatric Disorders: A Review of Randomized, Controlled Trials with Interoception-Based Interventions

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Abstract

Interoception, or the process of sensing, interpreting, and integrating internal bodily signals, has increasingly been the subject of scientific research over the past decade but is still not well known in clinical practice. The aim of this article is to review clinical treatment interventions that use interoception, to synthesize the current research knowledge, and to identify the gaps where future research is needed. We conducted a comprehensive literature search on randomized, controlled trials that both include interoception in treatment interventions for individuals with psychiatric disorders and measure aspects of interoception using self-report measures. Out of 14 randomized, controlled trials identified, 7 found that interventions with interoception were effective in ameliorating symptoms. These studies included individuals with anxiety disorders, eating disorders, psychosomatic disorders, and addictive disorders. All of the intervention studies with positive clinical outcomes also demonstrated changes on interoceptive measures; however, these measures were often related to specific illness symptoms. Interoception may be a mechanism of action in improving clinical symptomatology, though studies incorporating general, symptom-independent interoceptive measures remain scarce. To further our understanding of the role interoception has in psychiatric disorders and their treatment, more studies integrating interoceptive measures are needed, along with a clearer definition of interoceptive terms used.

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