Antidepressants: always believed to be a tool for treating anxiety disorders. New research suggests that mindfulness-based stress reduction works just as well. I think we should talk about it, don’t we?
“It gave me the tools to spy on myself. Once you are aware of an anxious reaction, you can make choices about how to deal with it.’
First a TCA, then various SSRIs. I have been on antidepressants for an anxiety disorder for 33 years.
But if that was my only intervention, I would have removed myself from the walls by now.
The results of a recent randomized clinical trial led by researchers at Georgetown University Medical Center caught my attention.
Mindfulness-based stress reduction is as effective as an antidepressant for treating anxiety disorders.
By this point, the Georgetown team had found a leader A mindfulness-based stress reduction program was as effective as the SSRI antidepressant escitalopram (Lexapro) in treating anxiety disorders—generalized, social, panic, and specific phobias.
The work was revealed JAMA Psychiatry on November 9 this year.
The first author of the study, Dr. Elizabeth Hoge…
Our study provides evidence for clinicians, insurers, and health systems to recommend, include, and provide reimbursement for mindfulness-based stress reduction as an effective treatment for anxiety disorders, as mindfulness meditation is currently covered by too few providers.
A great advantage of mindfulness meditation is that it does not require a clinical degree to teach someone to facilitate mindfulness. Additionally, sessions can be conducted outside of a medical setting, such as a school or community center.
Let’s find out about it…
What is mindfulness-based stress reduction?
Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) is a therapeutic technique in which a teacher leads participants in practices such as meditation and yoga weekly—usually for one hour over eight weeks—to reduce stress levels.
It was founded in the 1970s by Dr. John Kabat-Zinn at the University of Massachusetts Medical School.
Kabat-Zinn developed it as an eight-week course to treat patients’ emotional and mental health, as well as chronic pain unresponsive to conventional therapy.
The goal of MBSR is to bring people into the present moment so that they can experience their thoughts and feelings without judgment and avoid worrying about the past or the future.
By the way, if you want to try this, be sure to contact a qualified instructor. And if you’re using it to treat a physical ailment, check with your doctor.
Back to research…
Mindfulness-based stress reduction, antidepressants, and anxiety disorders: A study
From June 2018 to February 2020, the Georgetown team recruited 276 participants from three hospitals in Boston, New York and Washington.
They were randomly assigned to the MBSR group or escitalopram.
Participants’ anxiety symptoms were assessed at enrollment, eight weeks after completion of the intervention, and 12 and 24 weeks post-treatment.
How did it work?
MBSR was offered weekly for eight weeks. Protocol: two-and-a-half-hour private lessons, a one-day rest weekend class in weeks 5 or 6, and daily 45-minute home practice exercises.
I would like to know the dosage of escitalopram and for how long; but the information was not available.
Mindfulness-based stress reduction, antidepressants, and anxiety disorders: Implications
When all was said and done, 102 patients completed MBSR and 106 completed medication. Not all participants were able to complete their programs, mainly due to the pandemic.
The team used a validated assessment measure to rate the severity of symptoms across all disorders on a scale of 1-7 (7 being the most severe).
Both groups saw a reduction in anxiety symptoms: 1.35 points for MBSR and 1.43 for the antidepressant group. This is statistically equivalent.
At the time of registration, the average for both groups was 4.5. So we’re looking at a significant reduction in anxiety symptoms.
A 52-year-old female participant shared that she started practicing the MBSR technique 10 years ago and that it changed her life.
It’s interesting – he said, “Do you mind?” after answering the question was selected for the MBSR study.
Maybe you can relate to what he had to say…
I didn’t think I was anxious – I just thought my life was stressful because I took on too much. But I thought, ‘Yeah, I’m worried.’ There was something extreme in my reaction to my surroundings.
It gave me the tools to spy on myself. Once you are aware of an anxious reaction, you can make choices about how to deal with it. It’s not like a magical cure, but it was a kind of lifelong exercise. Instead of developing my anxiety, it went in a different direction and I’m so grateful for that.
But you know what? Dr. Hoge emphasizes that while MBSR works, not everyone is willing to put in the time and effort to implement it.
More needs to be done
Hit it app store and you can find all kinds of guided meditation programs. As convenient as they are, Hoge notes, the team doesn’t know how the programs compare to a fully individualized, weekly group lesson experience. It takes some work.
In addition, the team conducted a second phase of the study involving online video conferencing of treatments during the pandemic. They want to analyze its effectiveness.
Ultimately, the team hopes to investigate the effects of MBSR on sleep and depression.
What do you think?
You have it. Mindfulness-based stress reduction is as effective as SSRI antidepressants.
I’m not surprised at all. You?
So the question is, will we allow it? And don’t forget that it can be used as a main or complementary treatment.
What do you think?
Check out this article from Georgetown University Medical Center: Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Is As Effective as Antidepressant Medication for Anxiety Disorders
For more on mindfulness-based stress reduction, check out Verywell Mind.
Oh, and don’t forget about those Chipur mood and anxiety information and inspiration articles.