A mindfulness-based therapy could offer a “new choice for millions of people” with recurrent depression, a Lancet report suggests. Scientists tested it against anti-depressant pills for people at risk of relapse and found it worked just as well.
The therapy trains people to focus their minds and understand that negative thoughts may come and go. In England and Wales doctors are already encouraged to offer it.
Patients who have had recurrent clinical depression are often prescribed long-term anti-depressant drugs to help prevent further episodes. In this study, UK scientists enrolled 212 people who were at risk of further depression on a course of mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) while carefully reducing their medication. Patients took part in group sessions where they learned guided meditation and mindfulness skills.
Mindfulness puts me in charge, allowing me to take control of my own future, to spot when I am at risk…Nigel Reed, Study participant. The therapy aimed to help people focus on the present, recognise any early warning signs of depression and respond to them in ways that did not trigger further reoccurrences.
Researchers compared these results to 212 people who continued to take a full course of medication over two years. By the end of the study, a similar proportion of people had relapsed in both groups. And many in the MBCT group had been tapered off their medication. Scientists say these findings suggest MBCT could provide a much-needed alternative for people who cannot or do not wish to take long-term drugs.