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Anxiety: mindfulness meditation as effective as an antidepressant


Mindfulness-based stress reduction therapy is as effective as antidepressant medication in treating anxiety disorders, according to a study published in November 2022 in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Psychiatry.

A guided mindfulness-based stress reduction program has been shown to be as effective as escitalopram (Seroplex, Lexapro, Cipralex), a commonly prescribed antidepressant, in people with anxiety disorders.

Anxiety disorders include generalized anxiety, social anxiety, panic disorder, and fear of certain places or situations, including crowds and public transportation (agoraphobia). (TEST: Do you suffer from social anxiety?)

Elizabeth Hoge of Georgetown University Medical Center and his colleagues (1) conducted this study with 276 people, whose average age was 33 years and 75% of whom were women.

Therapy was offered weekly for eight weeks via two-and-a-half-hour in-person classes, a one-day retreat weekend course, and daily 45-minute home practice exercises.

Anxiety symptoms were assessed at enrollment and at the end of the intervention after 8 weeks, and at 12 and 24 weeks after enrollment. The evaluations were blinded, meaning that the evaluators did not know whether which participants had received the drug or the psychotherapy.

At the end of the trial, 102 participants had completed therapy and 106 had completed drug treatment.

Anxiety was rated using a scale of 1 to 7 (7 being severe anxiety). Both groups saw their anxiety symptoms decrease (by 1.35 points on average for the therapy and 1.43 for the medication, a statistically equivalent result). The starting average was about 4.5 for both groups, the decrease in the severity of anxiety is thus about 30%.

The researchers’ statement reports the testimony of a participant in a previous study by the team. Olga Cannistraro, 52, says she uses the techniques of this therapy according to her needs. More than ten years ago, this practice transformed his life. She was selected for a study of stress reduction therapy after responding to an ad asking, “Are you worried? »

I didn’t consider myself anxious – I just thought my life was stressful because I had taken on too much“, she recalls. “But I said to myself “yes, I am worried”. There was something excessive in the way I reacted to my surroundings.» (TEST: Do you tend to worry?)

She learned two key stress reduction meditation techniques. “It gave me the tools to spy on myself. Once you are aware of an anxiety reaction, you can choose how to handle it. It is not a magic cure, but a training that lasts a lifetime. Instead of my anxiety progressing, it went the other way and I’m very grateful for that.»

For more information on mindfulness meditation, see the links below.

(1) Eric Bui, Mihriye Mete, Mary Ann Dutton, Amanda W. Baker, Naomi M. Simon.

Psychomedia with sources: Georgetown University Medical Center, JAMA Psychiatry.
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