A new study from the University of Oxford finds that mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) is just as effective as antidepressants for preventing a relapse of depression. In MBCT, a person learns to pay closer attention to the present moment and to let go of the negative thoughts and ruminations that can trigger depression. They also explore a greater awareness of their own body, identifying stress and signs of depression before a crisis hits.
The study is wonderful news because the relapse rate for major depression disorder is as high as 50 percent for persons who have experienced one episode and as high as 80 percent for people who have experienced two episodes of depression. As my psychiatrist said in our last session, it usually takes less medicine to keep someone well than to get someone well. So that means people can wean off antidepressants with a kind of security net under them, without the high risk of relapse.
However, I’m going to risk the backlash from readers and go against popular opinion when I say that I don’t think mindfulness is a cure-all for depression. It has gotten so much buzz lately that I fear that some severely depressed people out there may make the same mistake I did.
Last year this time, I was immersed in an eight-week intensive Mindful-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program at Anne Arundel Community Hospital. The course was approved by and modeled from Jon Kabat Zinn’s incredibly successful program at the University of Massachusetts. I was familiar with Zinn’s writings and had read about the many miracles that mindfulness had brought to his patients, from helping with diabetes and arthritis to heart disease and chronic pain. People with insomnia were sleeping through the night, and diabetics were improving their blood sugar.
I salivated over his pages.
I wanted a miracle, too.