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Many individuals who get through a major depressive episode relapse, sometimes more than once.
The most common relapse prevention method has been the use of antidepressants, reducing the incidence of relapse by up to two-thirds when used as prescribed. Now, research shows there is another viable relapse prevention option.
MBCT, or mindfulness based cognitive therapy, offered the same amount of relapse prevention as an antidepressant in a recent study. MBCT was created to help people recognize the signs of depression relapse, and respond to them constructively.
For the study, 212 participants with recurring depression went off their antidepressant slowly, and then received MBCT. The MBCT protocol included guided mindfulness practices, group discussion, and a variety of cognitive behavioral exercises. Another 212 participants with recurring depression stayed on their medication.
Both groups were assessed regularly over the course of two years for symptoms of a major depressive episode. Relapse rates in each group were about the same: 44 percent in the MBCT group, and 47 percent in the antidepressant group.
“Whilst this study doesn’t show that mindfulness-based cognitive therapy works any better than maintenance antidepressant medication in reducing the rate of relapse in depression, we believe these results suggest a new choice for the millions of people with recurrent depression on repeat prescriptions,” said researcher Willem Kuyken.
The pairing of mindfulness and CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) to create MBCT is a match made in therapeutic heaven.
Cognitive therapies help individuals realize how they think about life and themselves, and how those thoughts influence their mood, emotions, and behavior. Mindfulness teaches people to take charge of where they place their attention, and to notice what is occurring in the present moment.
So, MBCT trained people are more aware of their thoughts and feelings, and respond to them in ways that get their needs and wants met.
"Mindfulness gives me a set of skills which I use to keep well in the long term. Rather than relying on the continuing use of antidepressants mindfulness puts me in charge, allowing me to take control of my own future, to spot when I am at risk and to make the changes I need to stay well," said Nigel Reed, an MBCT research study participant.
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