Cognitive-behavioral treatment for chronic nightmares in trauma-exposed persons: Assessing physiological reactions to nightmare-related fear

Jamie L. Rhudy, Joanne L. Davis, Amy E. Williams, Klanci M. McCabe, Emily J. Bartley, Patricia M. Byrd, Kristi E. Pruiksma

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations

Abstract

Cognitive-behavioral treatments (CBTs) that target nightmares are efficacious for ameliorating self-reported sleep problems and psychological distress. However, it is important to determine whether these treatments influence objective markers of nightmare-related fear, because fear and concomitant physiological responses could promote nightmare chronicity and sleep disturbance. This randomized, controlled study (N=40) assessed physiological (skin conductance, heart rate, facial electromyogram) and subjective (displeasure, fear, anger, sadness, arousal) reactions to personally relevant nightmare imagery intended to evoke nightmare-related fear. Physiological assessments were conducted at pretreatment as well as 1-week, 3-months, and 6-months posttreatment. Results of mixed effects analysis of variance models suggested treatment reduced physiological and subjective reactions to nightmare imagery, gains that were generally maintained at the 6-month follow-up. Potential implications are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)365-382
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Clinical Psychology
Volume66
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 1 2010
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy
  • Emotion
  • Nightmares
  • Psychophysiology
  • Treatment outcome

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Clinical Psychology

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