Can 'Meditation' be synonymous with 'Antidepressant'?

MN Report 02:08 PM, 12 Nov, 2022
Can 'Meditation' be synonymous with 'Antidepressant'?

Anxiety is a natural reaction to perceived danger or uncertain outcomes. At times, it becomes critical as it starts to hinder daily functioning; such cases may be diagnosed as anxiety disorders. According to data, around 301 million people suffered from anxiety disorders in 2019. 

Medications and psychotherapy have been used for the treatment of anxiety disorders. However, the major concern is the unease and lack of access to these resources, causing people to look for alternatives. While a research review from 2021 recognized the positive effect of mindfulness therapies on anxiety and depression, there was no previous data to prove the program could be as effective as medication. 

Recently, research published in JAMA Psychiatry, conducted by Georgetown University Medical Center, revealed that an 8-week program of guided mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) was just as effective as a common antidepressant, escitalopram (Lexapro), for anxiety reduction. It is the first study to compare the effect of medication to MBSR for anxiety control. 

Clinical Trial 

Georgetown University Medical Center included 276 participants from June 2018 to February 2020 in their randomized clinical trial. They were aged 18 to 75 years, with a mean of 33 years. These were diagnosed cases of anxiety disorders like generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and agoraphobia. The participants were split into two groups according to their anxiety symptoms; one group was given escitalopram, while the other was put in an MBSR program. The MBSR program consisted of meditation exercises like breath awareness, body movement scan, and gentle movement meditation

At the end of the trial, 102 participants had completed the MBRS program and 106 took the full course of medication. The analyzed data showed the severity of the anxiety symptoms had reduced by approximately 30% in both groups. Keeping this in mind, the lead author of the study noted that MBSR had similar effectiveness to that of a common drug used for anxiety disorders and was a well-tolerated treatment


Despite the great outcomes, the study had certain limitations. Most of the participants consisted of females with higher education levels. Additionally, participants were only enlisted from three urban academic medical centres. Moreover, the study included just one drug and no other medications used to treat anxiety disorders. 


MBSR is a suitable alternative for those looking for treatment for anxiety disorders other than medication or psychotherapy. It can be recommended by doctors for patients with anxiety disorders. The research will also help with insurance reimbursement, as its effectiveness is similar to a drug, so patients would not have to carry the financial burden of paying for MBSR themselves. 


In the future, research could be carried out to figure out which kind of people would benefit the most from MBSR as compared to other therapeutic strategies. This could include different variables such as psychological factors and age etc. Thus, this would allow doctors to guide their patients about the best treatment for their case. 



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