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The Effect of Stress Management Techniques on Persons with Addictive Behaviors: a Systematic Review

Maya Louvardi, George P. Chrousos,, Christina Darviri.


Background: According to the current state of knowledge, addictions are often developed as a maladaptive coping response to elevated stress levels. Stress management has a beneficial effect on various mental health problems. Yet, there is no strong evidence concerning the effect of stress management on stress levels of individuals with addictive behaviors, although such an effect might benefit their addictive symptoms. Objective: To investigate the effect of stress management on stress levels of persons with addictive behaviors. Methods: A systematic review of the literature was carried out on Biomed Central, PubMed, Scopus and Web of Science searching for relevant trials investigating the effect of stress management techniques, specifically of Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR), Autogenic Training (AT) and Guided Imagery (GI), on stress levels of individuals with addictive behaviors. In order to be included, the studies had to be randomized trials using an intervention and a non-intervention or a placebo control group, to apply PMR, GI or AT, to include a sample with addictive behaviors, to be published in English, to involve a baseline and at least one subsequent measurement, to be published in peer-review journals and to measure stress through instruments or biochemical assessments. The trialsÂ’ quality was assessed by the use of the Jadad Scale. Results: A total of four studies met the inclusion criteria and were further analyzed. The findings indicated that PMR might lead to a reduction of stress levels, while no such evidence is found concerning GI and AT. The quality of all trials was low. Conclusion: Progressive Muscle Relaxation and GI might have a divergent effect on persons with addictive behaviors. Yet, the low number of the studies and their poor quality debars drawing reliable conclusions for potential beneficial effects.

Key words: Addiction, Autogenic Training, Guided Imagery, Intervention, Progressive Muscle Relaxation; Stress.

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