[CALM DOWN] Daily meditation curbs anxiety as well as a drug
Mindfulness meditation is as effective at reducing anxiety as the commonly prescribed antidepressant escitalopram, findings from a recent study suggest. The study, led by researchers at Georgetown University Medical Center, Washington, DC, is the first randomized clinical trial to compare the effectiveness of mindfulness meditation with the antidepressant.
Participants in the mindfulness group practiced 45-minute daily meditations using a few different techniques they learned at weekly classes. They also went on daylong weekend retreats. The meditation techniques included breath awareness; body scanning, in which attention is directed to one body part at a time, and mindful movement, in which stretching and movements bring attention to the body. Although participants were younger (ages 20-46), the findings could have implications for older adults, as well.
For the 8-week study, participants in the antidepressant group received 10 mg of escitalopram daily the first week, and then took 20 mg daily for the rest of the study if the pill was well tolerated. There were 102 patients in the mindfulness group and 106 in the antidepressant group.
After monitoring the two groups, the researchers found that people using mindfulness meditation saw their anxiety improve nearly as much as people who were taking the antidepressant, as measured by scores on the Clinical Global Impression of Severity scale.
Lead author Elizabeth Hoge, MD, said the findings support physicians recommending mindfulness meditation as an alternative to antidepressants for some patients, especially as many people worry that antidepressants will interfere with their daily lives and others start taking medications but stop.
Dr. Hoge, who is director of the university’s Anxiety Disorders Research Program, said the study also provides evidence for insurers to cover mindfulness meditation as a treatment for anxiety.
To read the abstract of the study, “Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction vs Escitalopram for the Treatment of Adults With Anxiety Disorders: A Randomized Clinical Trial,” click here
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