An experimental study of the psychological impact of a Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Program on highly sensitive persons

Ilse Soons, André Brouwers, Welko Tomic


Background. The mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program has been provided in a variety of settings, and for a variety of individuals. Over two decades of research show that its effectiveness has been made plausible. However, the effects of MBSR interventions on highly sensitive persons (HSPs) have not been examined to date. Aim. This study investigated the effects of participation in a MBSR program on symptoms of stress, social anxiety, self-acceptance, emotional empathy, personal growth, and self-transcendence in HSPs. Sample. Forty-seven participants, 34 females (72%), enrolled in an eight-week MBSR program. Method. Participants were matched on sensitivity scores, the amount of experience in relaxation exercise, gender, age and level of education. Subsequently, they were randomly assigned to an experimental group (first trained group), and a control group (second trained group). The MBSR program, an intensive training in mindfulness meditation, consisted of eight sessions of two and a half hours each. Results. Findings showed that immediately after the eight-week program, as well as four weeks later, the participating HSPs suffered less from stress and appeared to have less social anxiety, whereas their scores for mindfulness, emotional empathy, personal growth initiative, self-acceptance and self-transcendence were significantly higher. Effect sizes ranged from medium (0.63) to very large (2.52). These effects persisted at 4-weeks follow-up and even improved significantly for stress, social anxiety and self-acceptance. Conclusion. The MBSR program has the capacity to help HSPs to deal with stress and social anxiety, as well as to develop their assumed greater capabilities for empathy, personal growth, and self-transcendence. MBSR could offer a meaningful supplement to therapies for HSPs.


Emotional empathy; highly sensitive persons; MBSR program; personal growth initiative; sensitivity; self-acceptance; self-transcendence; social anxiety; stress

Full Text: PDF