Mindfulness Therapy Helps Patients With Anxiety Disorder: Study

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Psychotherapy and pharmacological solutions are some of the common treatment options for patients with mental disorders. But, alternative treatments for psychiatric conditions are increasingly becoming popular. Lately, doctors have been advising alternative treatments, like meditation and yoga with aromatherapy, for mental issues, particularly for anxiety disorders and depression.

According to a recent study published in the Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychopharmacology, significant changes were evident in the brain regions that control emotional processing of youths who were given mindfulness and energy healing based therapies.

Though anxiety disorders are common among children and adolescents, antidepressants administered to treat the condition are many times not tolerated well by children who are at a high risk of developing bipolar disorder.

So, the researchers at the University of Cincinnati (UC) have now found out how cognitive therapy that utilizes mindfulness techniques, such as meditation, energy healing therapy, quiet reflection, and facilitator-led discussion, may help as an adjunct to pharmacological interventions. The study was part of a larger investigation to understand the effectiveness of mindfulness-based therapy.

The respondents were chosen from a group of youths who had anxiety disorders (generalized, social and/or separation anxiety) and who have a parent with bipolar disorder. The study, published in the Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychopharmacology in July 2016, tried to evaluate neurophysiology of mindfulness-based cognitive therapy in children who had higher risks of developing bipolar disorder.

Mindfulness therapy increases activity in the brain

The nine participants aged 9-16 years were made to undergo functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) while they were involved in a continuous performance of tasks with emotional and neutral distractors prior to and following 12 weeks of mindfulness-based cognitive therapy.

“Our preliminary observation that the mindfulness therapy increases activity in the part of the brain known as the cingulate, which processes cognitive and emotional information, is noteworthy,” said co-principal researcher of the study Jeffrey Strawn, M.D., an associate professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neuroscience, and director of the Anxiety Disorders Research Program.

“This study, taken together with previous research, raises the possibility that treatment-related increases in brain activity (of the anterior cingulate cortex) during emotional processing may improve emotional processing in anxious youth who are at risk for developing bipolar disorder,” he added.

Speaking about the effectiveness of mindfulness techniques, co-author of the study Sian Cotton, Ph.D., an associate professor of family and community medicine at UC, said, “Mindfulness-based therapeutic interventions promote the use of meditative practices to increase present-moment awareness of conscious thoughts, feelings and body sensations in an effort to manage negative experiences more effectively.” These alternative approaches augment traditional treatments offering new strategies for coping with psychological problems, he said.

Recovery roadmap

The researchers noted that increases in mindfulness were associated with decreases in anxiety in the participants.

However, the researchers called for further studies into this for more clarity. “The path from an initial understanding of the effects of psychotherapy on brain activity to the identification of markers of treatment response is a challenging one, and will require additional studies of specific aspects of emotional processing circuits,” Strawn said.

For any mental health condition, be it anxiety disorder or depression, early intervention is the key. Hence, if a loved one is exhibiting any psychiatric symptom, seek the advice of a doctor immediately.

Mindfulness Therapy Helps Patients With Anxiety Disorder: Study

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