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We have already seen that significant childhood trauma is associated with increased risk of depression in adulthood which by no means is always responsive to anti-depressants. A recent research study, carried out jointly by researchers from the University of Exeter and King’s College, University of London, demonstrated that mindfulness meditation can be more effective at treating depression than anti-depressant medication.
In the study, which comprised 123 volunteers suffering from depression, the participants were split into two groups :
GROUP 1: the participants in this group were given a therapy called mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (this therapy combines meditation with traditional cognitive therapy and focuses upon addressing negative thinking patterns and helping the person to concentrate more on the present, rather than obsessing about the past and the future)
GROUP 2: the participants in this group were treated with anti-depressant medication.
This trial lasted for 8 weeks. By the end of this period, those in Group 1 had been taught meditation techniques they could practice on their own without the assistance of a therapist.
At the end of the 8 week period, those in Group 1 reported greater control over their negative thinking and over their negative emotions. Furthermore, when the two groups were followed up 15 months later, 60% of those in Group 2 had suffered a relapse compared to just 47% in Group 1. Also, those in Group 1 reported an overall higher quality of life and a greater ability to derive pleasure from life than those in Group 2.
Professor William Kuyken, who led the study, summarized the implications of the findings by explaining that whilst those who take medication for their depression are highly vulnerable to relapse when they cease to take it, mindfulness-based cognitive therapy teaches people skills to manage their illness for life. He went on to say that this form of meditation therapy could be a most viable alternative treatment for many of the three-and-a-half million people currently suffering from clinical depression in the United Kingdom.
Indeed, studies are now being carried out that suggest anti-depressant treatment may not be as effective as once thought – for example, a recent study suggested that anti-depressants work little better than placebos (click here to read my article on this).
NB: It is important to only stop taking prescribed medication on the advice of an appropriately qualified professional.
David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).