The Psychophysiology of Maladaptive Perfectionism and Mindfulness Meditation: An Investigation Using Heart Rate Variability
Azam, Muhammad Abid
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Heart rate variability (HRV) is a vagal nerve-mediated biomarker of cardiac function used to investigate chronic illness, psychopathology, stress and, more recently, attention-regulation processes such as meditation. This study investigated HRV in relation to maladaptive perfectionism (MP), a stress-related personality factor, and mindfulness meditation (MM), a stress reduction practice expected to elevate HRV, and promote relaxation. Maladaptive perfectionists (MPs; n = 21) and controls (n = 39) were exposed to a lab-based assessment in which HRV was measured during (1) a 5-minute baseline resting phase (2) a 5-minute cognitive stress-induction phase, and (3) a post-stress phase. In the post-stress phase, participants were randomly assigned to a 10-minute audio-instructed MM condition or a 10-minute rest condition with an audio-description of MM. Analyses revealed a significant elevation in HRV during MM for controls but not for MPs. These results suggest that MM promotes cardiac relaxation following cognitive stress and that the perfectionist personality hinders relaxation likely because of influences that decrease cardiac vagal tone. The results are discussed in the context of developing psychophysiological models to advance therapeutic interventions for distressed populations.