Clinical depression is a global health issue and it affects millions of American adults. Each year, roughly 6.7 percent of the U.S. population, 18 years and up, suffers. Undiagnosed depression costs millions of dollars annually in lost work days and decreased productivity as those affected may not be able to think clearly or perform well. Statistics show that these numbers have been growing with repercussions that can lead to other health concerns such as heart disease and stroke. Awareness is key in changing these disheartening facts. It means educating the public about measures to take in order to prevent and treat depression. A recent study also states that awareness, as in mindfulness-based cognitive therapies can also be key as a practice proven to be just as effective as taking antidepressants.
The Guardian reports April 21, that mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) may be just as effective as antidepressants when it comes to preventing relapses after an initial recovery. Forbes reports that 50 to 80 percent of people who experience depression are at risk for a relapse.
A new trial study published in a medical journal called The Lancet, which found that the usage of MBCT proved to provide “enduring positive outcomes in terms of relapse or recurrence, residual depressive symptoms and quality of life.” While there was no proof that MBCT results were better than taking antidepressants, results were shown to be comparable.
Medical best practice, which is endorsed by The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, encourages patients who are at a high risk for recurrent depression to take antidepressants for two years as a prevention tool for relapse. What often happens is that when people stop taking their medication, the depression returns. That is why the team of researchers from the University of Oxford decided to conduct this study; many people are interested in alternatives to pills.
Researchers in the study initially thought that they might find MBCT to provide better results than taking pills. The numbers in their study, however, were solely comparable. MBCT relapse rates came in at 44 percent, while 47 percent of those who were taking antidepressants relapsed. Neither method was bulletproof and five “adverse events” occurred in both groups, including two deaths. This out of a group of 424 adults who were willing to be a part of the trial, half of whom were sectioned off into each group.
Adults in the mindfulness camp were assigned eight two or more hour long group sessions along with a home practice regimen which involved mindfulness training, group discussion and cognitive behavior exercises. Subjects had the option to follow up four times over the course of the year long trial.
Psychcentral explains mindfulness training as a way of paying full attention to the present moment that can “mitigate the cognitive symptoms of depression.” The practice can be very beneficial as it trains individuals to slow down enough to become more aware of their thoughts without passing judgment on them but acknowledging them as inaccurate reflections on what is really going on. This process empowers the individual as the practice helps them to become less and less carried away by distorted visions of themselves and the world.
According to Forbes Magazine, there has been an increasing number of evidence that this type of therapy has positive effects on the brain. Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy marries mindfulness training or meditation with cognitive behavior therapy. These two practices are similar, even when not combined. Together, they take a goal-oriented approach that teaches those who use it to change the patterns of their thought and behavior which also changes they way they feel and react to their everyday lives. Negative and destructive thoughts are replaced with more positive and productive thoughts, causing subjects to become less imposed upon by the thoughts that were once crippling.