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First Controlled Clinical Trial of Mindfulness Meditation Therapy

Anxiety and elevated stress levels frequently co-exist with various chronic pain conditions, and mindfulness meditation has been an increasingly popular therapeutic alternative. But evidence based support for its effectiveness has largely been lacking until the conclusion of a recent NIH-sponsored clinical trial reported by Georgetown University Medical Center. The study found that patients with generalized anxiety disorder showed reduced stress-hormone and inflammatory responses to a stressful situation following completion of a mindfulness meditation course. The same stress stimulus produced elevated responses in subjects who took a stress management course that did not include mindfulness meditation. The findings were published earlier this week in Psychiatry Research.

In the trial, 89 patients with generalized anxiety disorder were divided into 2 groups, one of which received an 8 week course in mindfulness based stress reduction. A second, control group took a different stress management course that did not include meditative techniques. The effect, according to the researchers, was to introduce a level of “blinding” not present in previous studies, in which the control group received no treatment at all. This served to reduce the influence of placebo effect and other forms of expectancy bias that would affect outcomes. Lead author Elizabeth Hoge, MD, associate professor in Georgetown University Medical Center’s Department of Psychiatry, commented, “Mindfulness meditation training is a relatively inexpensive and low-stigma treatment approach, and these findings strengthen the case that it can improve resilience to stress.”

Read a news story about the study findings here.

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