Yet, the symptoms of this mental illness may be masked by those suffering from it. This is partially due to the stigma that our society attaches to the realm of mental illnesses. It is popularly perceived as not an illness, but rather a mood that people should somehow ‘snap out of’.
Mental illness patients are often advised to simply get over their condition or to do otherwise impossible things by well meaning people who have a serious misunderstanding of mental illnesses. As such, mental illnesses are often magnified by this stigmatization.
It has been found, with depression specifically, that as high as 80 percent of those who go through a major episode of depression will likely relapse.
The drug industry is on a ceaseless effort as it churns out a line of new drugs each year aimed at lessening the effects of depression. This investment is made partially because it belies the sad state of how massive a problem depression in our modern world has become. The drugs do not “fix” depression and they often come with warnings of harsh side effects which may include depression itself. The proper use of these drugs may still result in a heavy taxation of the biological systems of the body.
Of course, the alternative health industry has some serious supplement contenders, such as the well-documented effects of magnesium supplementation on depression. Still, you should consider mindfulness as a viable approach to depression regardless of your stance on supplements or pharmaceuticals.
Mindfulness: A Viable Alternative to Prescription Drugs?
There now seems to be evidence to support a non-drug solution for those suffering from depression. It is called mindfulness-based cognitive therapy or MBCT. A study published in The Lancet has found that this form of therapy helps to prevent the relapse of depression at similar rates to pharmaceutical drugs.
This experiment also found that MBCT can especially help those who have suffered from childhood abuse from experiencing a relapse. This study is part of a growing body of evidence that presents a natural, ancient solution to a modern day problem.
As these studies bring legitimacy to the idea of using these ancient practices in a modern setting, the potential for people to heal themselves in a way that is not taxing to their biological systems and cheaper (as mindfulness information is available freely) makes the case for a superior solution.
Mindfulness is an entire field in and of itself. One is likely to never encounter the same definition twice. However, it can be simply defined as the act of bringing one’s focus to the thoughts, bodily sensations, and feelings in the present moment. An important feature of this is that it does not entertain losing one’s mind in commentary about any of those aspects of the present moment, and if they should so happen to occur, it is about incorporating them into the act of mindfulness and not being swept down a ravine of thoughts (often to a dark place for a depressive person).
Mindfulness is not an escape from one’s situation, but a bold and brave embrace of reality as it is. Instead of wasting time and psychic energy, dancing with the thoughts on autopilot, we embrace them as they are along with anything else that occurs in our world. This is a more genuine form of living as you notice the things that compose the present moment.
MBCT is the brainchild of three psychologists who have decades of experience in this field. At present, it is an 8 week program that involves group work. In the group, patients use mindfulness exercises to achieve the desired results.
MBCT has its basis in the works of Jon Kabat-Zinn, who studied the field of mindfulness extensively and created a curriculum that targets people with a history of depressive episodes.
The results of research show statistically significant differences between those who had the mindfulness therapy and those who were treated by placebo. Study after study has shown that mindfulness, along with meditation and yoga, work to help alleviate depression as well as a flurry of other afflictions, but scientists do not yet understand the mechanism by which this healing change is effected.
The beautiful thing about MBCT is its lack of side effects. Even if this therapy had a modest fail rate like most drugs do, it would at least have done no harm to the patient in the time it was being employed.
Such a tool or technique is almost unheard of in pharmaceutical medicine and it would be a great boon for patients who are suffering from other physical complications as they are trying to recover from or prevent a major depressive episode.
A second benefit of mindfulness therapy is that it can be coupled with adjunct therapies without altering or diminishing the effects of those therapies. The present problem is a lack of staff that is trained in the appropriate techniques to execute MBCT. The further one gets away from a city, the likelier this problem is to persist.
Because this drug-free method has proven so beneficial in the treatment of depression, it is imperative that the adequate training of clinicians be advanced successfully.
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