A recent study shows that mindfulness-based therapy could offer a new choice for millions of people with recurrent depression.
Patients who have had recurrent clinical depression are often prescribed long-term anti-depressant drugs to help prevent further episodes. Scientists have now shown that their mindfulness-based therapy, which trains people to focus their minds and understand that negative thoughts may come and go, have found that it works just as well as anti-depressant pills.
In their study conducted in the United Kingdom, scientists enrolled 212 people who were at risk of further depression on a course of mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) while carefully reducing their medication.
The therapy aimed to help people focus on the present, recognize any early warning signs of depression and respond to them in ways that did not trigger further recurrences. Researchers compared these results to 212 people who continued to take a full course of medication over two years.
By the end of the study, a similar proportion of people had relapsed in both groups. Scientists say these findings suggest MBCT could provide a much-needed alternative for people who cannot or do not wish to take long-term drugs.
In their report, they conclude that mindfulness gives people a set of skills which they use to keep well in the long term. “Rather than relying on the continuing use of anti-depressants, mindfulness puts us in charge, allowing us to take control of our own future, to spot when we are at risk and to make the changes we need to stay well,” say scientists involved in the study.
These findings are important from the point of view of people living with depression who are trying to engage in their own recovery and it provides evidence that MBCT is an intervention that primary care physicians should take seriously as an option. However, the scientists warn that patients should only reduce their anti-depressant medication under medical supervision.