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O mindfulness (mindfulness) are integrative practices that can reduce anxiety symptoms in participants by up to 30%.
It’s a fact that meditation is a way to calm the body and mind, but a new study just published found that participating in a stress-reduction program based on mindfulness (mindfulness) was as effective as using an antidepressant (escitalopram) for treating depression disorder.
This is the first randomized clinical study that compared meditation with the use of a drug considered the gold standard, and the results reinforce the importance of integrative practices.
“We are one of the champion countries in anxiety disorders, and work like this, with excellent methodology, helps a lot to expand the forms of treatment. It enables health professionals to look at integrative practices without prejudice and observe that they are an important
coadjuvant and can be added to the conventional treatment”, stated Mary Esther Azevedo Massolacoordinator of Integrative Medicine Team at Hospital Israelita Albert Einstein.
Mindfulness can be a tool to treat anxiety
Anxiety disorders can be highly distressing: they include generalized anxiety, social phobia, panic disorder, and fear of certain places and situations, including crowds, for example. Generally, these problems are treated using specific medications.
The problem is that some patients do not respond well to medications or cannot tolerate their possible side effects, including nausea, drowsiness and headache. Because of this, some patients end up not following the treatment correctly.
How the study was carried out
To arrive at the results, researchers followed 276 patients (mean age 33 years) between June 2018 and February 2020 in three hospitals in Boston, New York and Washington, in the United States.
They were randomly sorted — one party received the escitalopram as a form of treatment and the other half participated in the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), mindfulness-based stress reduction.
The program was offered for eight weeks through face-to-face classes lasting two and a half hours, a one-day retreat on a weekend (in the fifth or sixth week after starting treatment), in addition to daily 45-minute exercises done in House.
Patients’ anxiety symptoms were assessed at baseline and then at eight, 12, and 24 weeks after follow-up began. The assessments were done blindly — that is, the researchers did not know whether people had received the medication or the mindfulness program — and using scales to assess the severity of symptoms.
The two groups had a significant reduction in anxiety symptoms, with an average of 1.35 points for those who practiced meditation and 1.43 for those who took the medicine, which was considered a statistically equivalent result. According to research, this means a 30% reduction in symptoms of
Practice is well known
According to Massola, the MBSR program has been very well described in the literature since the 1990s and is based on three parts that the practitioner will use daily: the first is meditation with awareness of breathing and body sensations.
Second is the body scan, which is a kind of relaxation of both body and mind; the third part of the program uses mindful movements with gentle stretches for body awareness and inner sensations.
“This work is very important because it is the first randomized clinical trial that investigated a gold standard drug in the treatment of anxiety with the practice of an MBSR program. The results show that meditation can be used as a complementary treatment, with or without conventional medication”.
The patient, however, must maintain regular follow-up with a specialized professional, says the specialist.
The coordinator of Einstein Integrative Medicine Team he also highlighted that follow-up is necessary because any mindfulness practice requires dedication from the patient and it is not possible to start a mental health treatment with meditation alone.
“As the patient decreases the need for medication, meditation can provide support for him to remain in control of anxiety”, he explains.
Mindfulness x Medication
According to Massola, many patients do not tolerate psychiatric medications well and the study shows that the group that received escitalopram had more side effects (such as sleep disturbances, nausea, fatigue, headache, decreased appetite, nervousness, dizziness and anxiety). than the group that did the MBSR.
“Being able to offer patients a non-pharmacological therapy to improve their mental health is very important. This result certainly strengthens integrative practices so that more and more doctors, psychiatrists and psychologists look at them without prejudice. All aim to strengthen self-care and are an important adjunct to treatment”, concludes the specialist.