Depression sufferers who would rather avoid pills can turn to mindfulness therapy to keep the disease at bay, according to a new study published in The Lancet.
Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) is just as effective as antidepressants at preventing a relapse among patients with depression, concluded United Kingdom researchers who undertook the largest-ever study comparing the two treatments.
“Depression is a recurrent disorder. Without ongoing treatment, as many as four out of five people with depression relapse at some point,” says Willem Kuyken, lead author and Professor of Clinical Psychology at the University of Oxford.
A recurrent disorder
For most patients, antidepressant medication reduces the likelihood of relapse or recurrence by up to two-thirds, says co-author Richard Byng, a Plymouth University Peninsula Schools of Medicine and Dentistry professor.
“However, there are many people who, for a number of different reasons, are unable to keep on a course of medication for depression,” Byng says. The primary reason is the inability to tolerate side effects.
After dividing 424 patients into two groups—212 receiving MBCT and 212 taking antidepressants – researchers concluded mindfulness was just as effective as antidepressants and offers a similar level of protection. Relapse rates were 44 percent in the mindfulness group and 47 percent in the antidepressant group.
MBCT uses group discussion and cognitive behavioral exercises to teach people with recurrent depression skills to recognize and respond constructively to thoughts and feelings associated with relapse, preventing a downward spiral, they said.
Jim Gold is a veteran journalist who divides his time between Seattle and the Bay Area.