More than 6% of Americans suffer with depression. But only 1 in 5 of them ever receives treatment. One reason may be the side effects of antidepressant drugs.
These drugs can leave you sluggish, dizzy, or sleepless. They can blur your vision. They can trigger stomach – or headaches. They can cause anxiety or agitation. Up to half of those taking some of these drugs develop sexual problems.
Studies show antidepressants can deaden emotions. Patients describe their emotions as “dulled” or “blank.” Many say both negative and positive emotions are dulled. A few people report feeling no emotions at all.
In other people, antidepressants trigger suicidal thoughts.
No wonder so many people want to avoid taking them!
Fortunately, you have an option. One that has no side effects. It leaves your positive emotions intact. And it seems to work best for people with the worst problems.
A “New Age” Therapy That Really Works
Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy – or MBCT – is based on the work of Jon Kabat-Zinn. The University of Massachusetts Medical Center scholar developed a program to lower stress. He called it Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR).
MBSR is an 8-week training program in mindfulness meditation. MBCT combines this mindfulness aspect with cognitive therapy. Participants learn to pay attention (mindfulness) to everyday experiences. This trains them to observe their emotions objectively.
In addition, patients learn how depression works and to recognize its signals. They learn to separate their dark thoughts and feelings from reality. Then they can “observe” these thoughts and feelings – and separate them from their view of themselves.
This may sound a bit too “New Age” for you. But mindfulness practices – such as meditation – are proven to cut stress, improve sleep, and even lower cortisol, your main stress hormone.
Studies also show MBCT is remarkably effective.
Growing Proof Drugs Aren’t Your Only Option
In a 2000 British study, doctors compared people using MBCT to a group in standard treatment. Among the worst cases – people who’d suffered three or more bouts of depression – MBCT proved effective. The MBCT group was less likely to suffer a relapse.
In a 2008 study, 75% of MBCT patients with depression were able to stop taking drugs. And they were almost 25% less likely to suffer a relapse within 15 months than people just taking drugs.
A 2015 review of studies in The Lancet found MBCT is just as effective as drugs in preventing relapses.
A second review, published in 2016, showed patients who using MBCT were less likely to relapse over 60 weeks than those taking antidepressants. In fact, the MBCT group was 31% less likely to relapse. The study also found MBCT is especially effective for those with the worse symptoms.
Finding Mindful Help for Depression
MBCT is so new, it’s not yet widespread. But the University of California San Diego has a training program for professionals. They offer some resources on their “Center for Mindfulness” website (http://mbpti.org).
You can also locate mindfulness-based therapists on the Psychology Today website.
Go to https://therapists.psychologytoday.com/rms/?tr=Hdr_SubBrand, and enter your zip code. This will take you to a page with a list of therapists. Scroll down the left-hand column till you find “Treatment Orientation.” Select “More” for the expanded list. Scroll down this list to “Mindfulness-based (MBCT)” and click.
This will filter the list of professionals, leaving only those who practice mindfulness-based therapy.
About the Author: Jason Kennedy is a celebrated investigative health writer and the author of The X-Factor Revolution and Beyond the Blue Zone. With over 10 years of experience working with today’s leading alternative and anti-aging doctors, Jason shares his insider status and access to the latest breakthroughs with thousands of readers from around world.
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Kuyken, W., et al, “Effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of mindfulness-based cognitive therapy compared with maintenance antidepressant treatment in the prevention of depressive relapse or recurrence (PREVENT): a randomised controlled trial,” Lancet. Jul 4, 2015; 386(9988): 63-73.
Kuyken, W., et al, “Efficacy of Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy in Prevention of Depressive Relapse – An Individual Patient Data Meta-analysis From Randomized Trials,” JAMA Psychiatry. 2016; 73(6): 565-574
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