Mindfulness based cognitive therapy (MBCT) may be as effective as anti-depressants in aiding people with chronic depression from going into relapse, researchers said on Tuesday.
Depression the most common forms of mental illness, and is now affecting roughly 350 million people worldwide. It is also ranked by the World Health Organisation as the most important cause of disability globally.
Treatment involves either medication, or some sort of psychotherapy or even both. Many patients are not helped enough and fail to get better and are exposed to illness replase.
Mindfulness based cognitive therapy was developed to aid such people by showing them how to recognize and respond constructively to feelings and thoughts which are associated with relapse, targeting the prevention of the downward spiral into depression.
In the first large research to compare mindfulness based cognitive therapy and anti-depressants, scientists found little difference in the results.
In terms of cost, mindfulness training, which requires more time for training, was not significantly more expensive, particularly when the therapist gives out group sessions, the research found.
Richard Byng, a professor at Britain’s Plymouth University Peninsula Schools of Medicine and Dentistry, explained that, while actual standard treatment for chronic depression is focused on anti-depressants, many patients don’t want to take medication for long periods, while others fear side-effects.
In this research, 424 adults with major depression who were taking anti-depressant drugs were assigned randomly either to stop their treatment with anti-depressants at a slow pace and receive mindfulness based cognitive therapy or to stay on their medication.
While 212 patients continued their treatment with anti-depressants, the other half of the focus group attended eight mindfulness therapy sessions and were required to do daily home practice also as an in order to participate to four follow-up sessions over the next year.
Study findings published in The Lancet medical journal revealed that after two years, the relapse rates were the same in both groups, standing at 44 per cent in the therapy group, while the anti-depressant drug group only managed 47 per cent.
“Whilst this study doesn’t show that mindfulness-based cognitive therapy works any better than maintenance anti-depressant medication in reducing the rate of relapse. These results suggest a new choice for the millions of people with recurrent depression on repeat prescriptions,” said Willem Kuyken of Oxford University, who collaborated with Byng on the research.
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