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Meditation is better than drugs for anxiety, stress and panic attacks

Meditation is better than drugs for anxiety, stress and panic attacks

December 12, 2022
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Panic attacks, anxiety and stress, from today we know that meditation techniques are just as good as drugs to alleviate these conditions, and without side effects. These very important results emerge from a recent scientific research published a few weeks ago in the journal JAMA Psychiatry by an American team from Georgetown University Medical Center (Hoge et al, JAMA Psychiatry, Nov 2022).

Anxiety and medicines

Anxiety is a condition that, according to recent estimates, affects up to 34% of the world population. These disorders tend to persist over time and can have a limiting effect on everyday life. There are medicines to be taken to control anxiety and panic attacks but these interventions are often not decisive and can cause important side effects. It is often heard that meditation can help but until now the exact benefits were not known, especially when compared with commonly used drugs. For the first time, a scientific study has compared the effects of mindfulness meditation techniques, that is, designed to bring attention to the here and now, with those of medicines for anxiety. Today we are talking about what emerged from this comparison.

Meditation is better than drugs for anxiety, the study

Scientists recruited 276 patients, average age 33 years and all with a diagnosis of anxiety, panic attacks or agoraphobia. The volunteers were divided into two groups. The first group was asked to follow mindfulness meditation sessions for 2 months, in class and at home alone, in order to practice at least 45 minutes of meditation per day. The second group instead took a drug, escitalopram, used to combat anxiety disorders and depression. Well, after 2 months both groups saw the symptoms associated with anxiety drop by 30%. Continuing with the interventions for another 4 months, both groups saw anxiety further decline. Noteworthy is the fact that mindfulness meditation has achieved the same results as the well-known anxiety drug. Not only that, the study found that the drug caused fatigue, insomnia and nausea while the mindfulness technique was performed without side effects.

Conclusions and advice

The study indicates that, against anxiety, stress, panic attacks and other disorders related to them, there are not only drugs but also safe and effective interventions such as meditation techniques. An example of a mindfulness meditation technique is to try to focus attention on the various parts of the body, without judging, but feeling the different sensations, such as feeling the weight of the foot against the floor, the cold or warm surface of tiles or carpets, if you feel some pain or tension. Another way to practice mindfulness meditation is, during the day, to take a few minutes to focus attention on the breath, without forcing it, but feeling the breath coming in and out, trying to imagine it in the mind, without leaving room for intrusive thoughts.

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