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Interoception in Psychiatric Disorders

A Review of Randomized, Controlled Trials with Interoception-Based Interventions

Khoury, Nayla M., MD, MPH; Lutz, Jacqueline, PhD; Schuman-Olivier, Zev, MD

doi: 10.1097/HRP.0000000000000170

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.

From Harvard Medical School; Department of Psychiatry (Dr. Khoury) and Center for Mindfulness and Compassion (Drs. Lutz and Schuman-Olivier), Cambridge Health Alliance, Cambridge, MA; University of Washington and Seattle Children’s Hospital, Seattle, WA (Dr. Khoury).

Supported, in part, from a UH2 grant from the National Institutes of Health to Brown University, subcontracted to Cambridge Health Alliance (Drs. Lutz and Schuman-Olivier).

Original manuscript received 11 November 2016; revised manuscript received 10 March 2017, accepted for publication subject to revision 18 April 2017; revised manuscript received 16 May 2017.

Correspondence: Nayla M. Khoury, MD, MPH, 713 Harrison St., Syracuse NY 13210. Email:

© 2018 President and Fellows of Harvard College
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