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Study: Mindfulness Meditation Reduces Stress in Anxiety Disorders

February 14, 2017 – A Georgetown psychiatrist has demonstrated learning mindfulness meditation results in a lower stress response in people with generalized anxiety disorder.

Generalized anxiety disorder is a condition that causes chronic and excessive worrying that interferes with people’s daily lives.

A study recently published in Psychiatry Research showed that an eight-week mindfulness-based stress reduction course resulted in large drops in stress biomarkers during a laboratory stress task.

Mindfulness vs. Management

In contrast, an eight-week Stress Management Education course, with general tips on the importance of good nutrition, sleep habits and other wellness topics resulted in a slight rise of such biomarkers.

“Anxiety disorders affects an estimated 15 million Americans each year,” says Dr. Elizabeth A. Hoge, an associate professor in Georgetown University Medical Center’s psychiatry department who led the study. “Mindfulness meditation training is relatively inexpensive and doesn’t carry a stigma or have the side effects that many medications have. Our study suggests that mindfulness meditation may be a helpful treatment strategy for people with anxiety.”

Before and after the training courses, participants underwent the Trier Social Stress Test, in which the participants are asked on short notice to give a speech before an audience, and are given other anxiety-inducing instructions.

Hoge’s team monitored blood-based stress hormone and inflammatory responses in both groups.

Resilience to Stress

“We were testing the patients’ resilience,” Hoge said, “because that’s really the ultimate question – can we make people handle stress better?”

The finding confirms an earlier study in which Hoge found that the meditation group patients, compared to controls, experienced significantly greater reductions in self-reported measures of stress after their course.

Hoge hopes ultimately to expand the study of mindfulness-related treatments to other psychiatric conditions and to compare such treatments to standard psychiatric drug therapies.

The study was funded by a grant (K23AT4432) from the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, part of the National Institutes of Health.