Notable Doctors

Mindfulness Important in Vasculitis Management: A Conversation with Professor James Sosebee

During the 2017 International Vasculitis Symposium, James Sosebee led a presentation on Mindfulness, and conducted an early morning yoga session for attendees.
Photo: Chicago Corporate Photography and Video

One of the most popular sessions at the Vasculitis Foundation’s 2017 International Symposium in Chicago was about the role of mindfulness in the management of a serious disease like vasculitis.

The presentation was led by James Sosebee. James Sosebee is Assistant Professor of Human Anatomy & Physiology at Sinclair College, Dayton, Ohio.  Sosebee is also a Certified Mindfulness Facilitator (CMF) trained through the UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center (MARC).

In this interview, Sosebee talks about the terminology in describing an autoimmune illness and how it can impact one’s response over vasculitis.

VF: Vasculitis patients in particular often feel they have lost all control over their bodies with this disease. In fact, the nature of autoimmunity is the body is attacking itself. How can mindfulness give the patient a greater sense of control?

JS: Yes, it is true, that in the case of an autoimmune disorder such as vasculitis, the body fails to recognize some aspects of itself as “self,” and as such, launches an offense. But, I would offer a slightly different perspective, as it relates to mindfulness and the statement of “having lost all control over their disease.”

What we know, from a number of overlapping fields of inquiry, is that there is evidence in support of bidirectional communication underscoring the activities of mind, brain, and the various physiological systems of the body, in which some degree of volitional control is afforded the individual patient.

VF: How important is the language or terminology that we use to describe an autoimmune illness. Can the words we use play a role?

JS: Language is very important. From a mindfulness perspective, the language of “attacking the body,” sets up an emotional tone, that ensures a high level of vigilance, sympathetic activation of the autonomic nervous system, and increased emotional arouse.

This is where compassion/self compassion practices come into being. Mindfulness as such, invites a more genteel and cooperative relationship with the body.

VF: Finally, what is the most important factor in becoming practiced in the art of mindfulness?

JS: The mindfulness research suggests that the degree of daily practice, either formal or informal, correlates with the degree to which these changes are introduced into the nervous system.

Likewise, given the influence of inflammation in contributing to dysregulation of the immune system, many studies have provided evidence that pro-inflammatory markers are decreased with regular mindfulness practice.