New Scientist: Mindfulness and meditation can worsen depression and anxiety
About one in 12 people who try meditation experience an unwanted negative effect, usually a worsening in depression or anxiety, or even the onset of these conditions for the first time, according to the first systematic review of the evidence. “For most people it works fine but it has undoubtedly been overhyped and it’s not universally benevolent,” says Miguel Farias at Coventry University in the UK, one of the researchers behind the work.
Of the techniques I've tried, only listening to binaural beats with headphones has really worked to quieten the noise in my head. I should really start doing that again regularly. Meditation bells also work for me for short-term relief.
They found that about 8 per cent people who try meditation experience an unwanted effect. “People have experienced anything from an increase in anxiety up to panic attacks,” says Farias. They also found instances of psychosis or thoughts of suicide.
The figure of 8 per cent may be an underestimate, as many studies of meditation record only serious negative effects or don’t record them at all, says Farias.
Katie Sparks, a chartered psychologist and a member of the British Psychological Society, says the figure could have been pushed up by people trying out meditation because of undiagnosed anxiety or depression. “Meditation has been found to help people to relax and refocus and help them both mentally and physically,” she says.
But sometimes when people are trying to still their thoughts, the mind can “rebel”, she says. “It’s like a backlash to the attempt to control the mind, and this results in an episode of anxiety or depression,” she says.
I suspect that I'm one of those people who have suffered from depression but didn't realize or want to admit it.