WASHINGTON — Pharmaceutical companies may need a dose of their own medications. A new study finds the best treatment for anxiety may not come from your local pharmacy, but rather a quiet room in your home. The study, published in the journal Psychiatry Research, reports that eight-weeks of mindfulness meditation can be crucially beneficial for those who suffer from anxiety.
Researchers from the Georgetown University Medical Center selected 89 people who suffer from generalized anxiety disorder to undergo one of two different forms of treatment. One group took an eight-week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) course, which centered around meditation, and then determined whether or not it helped them relax. Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn created the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program in 1979 at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, which has now helped nearly 25,000 participants according to the University of Massachusetts website.
Those in the control group took an eight-week stress management education course, which centers more on habits such as diet, sleep, and general wellness.
Before and after the study, partcipants underwent the Trier Social Stress Test, a common experimental practice for inducing a stress response. Participants are asked on a moment’s notice to perform one of the most anxiety-causing tasks for many people: give a speech in front of an audience.
Mindfulness meditation ‘can improve resilience to stress’
The results were significantly different. The researchers reported that the mindfulness meditation routine resulted in a decrease of stress-related hormones and cell-signaling proteins when performing the speech after the experiment. Patients in the control group showed their anxiety actually worsened after having to do the task the second time.
“We were testing the patients’ resilience, because that’s really the ultimate question—can we make people handle stress better?” says lead author Dr. Elizabeth A. Hoge, associate professor in Georgetown University Medical Center’s Department of Psychiatry, in a release.
It became clear that mindfulness meditation was vital to the substantial drop in anxiety symptoms for the first group.
“Mindfulness meditation training is a relatively inexpensive and low-stigma treatment approach, and these findings strengthen the case that it can improve resilience to stress,” says Hoge.
Can mindfulness help other disorders too?
These results aren’t too surprising, being that a Harvard study released similar results in 2009, which also regarded MBSR. However in this study, participants were not diagnosed with GAD Generalized Anxiety Disorder, or any other stress-related disorder.
“Stressed but otherwise healthy individuals participated in an 8-week mindfulness-based stress reduction intervention”, the study noted. The Harvard research report went on to state that the MBSR correlated directly with reduced activity in the amygdala, a portion of the brain that stimulates stress.
According to the release, “Hoge hopes ultimately to expand the study of mindfulness-related treatments to other psychiatric conditions, and to compare such treatments to standard psychiatric drug therapies.”