Can meditation relieve anxiety disorders? Researchers from the Meditation Therapy Clinic at Khon Kaen University in Thailand set out to answer this question and found that meditation works just as well as other relaxation techniques.
Lead researcher Thawatchai Krisanaprakornkit and colleagues reviewed two randomized controlled studies - both from California - comprising 76 patients. Although only two studies met their research criteria, they found more than 50 studies involving meditation's effect on conditions such as performance anxiety, examination anxiety and anxiety in terminally ill patients.
Krisanaprakornkit and his team studied only meditation practices that could be used in clinical settings.
"Meditation as a part of religious or spiritual practice wasn't considered to be meditation therapy," he said. "If we want to adopt the usefulness of meditation for patients, we need to adjust the teachings of spiritual gurus to suit patients in clinical settings."
Their findings appear in a recent issue of The Cochrane Library, a publication of The Cochrane Collaboration, an international organization that evaluates medical research.
In one of the studies, researchers compared transcendental meditation to relaxation therapy and electromyography (EMG) biofeedback, which measures muscle control and helps patients learn to control their bodies' responses to stress. In the other study, researchers compared mindfulness meditation to kundalini yoga, the goal of which is "expounding the awakening of potential energy and inherent consciousness within the human body and mind," according to the HealthandYoga.com website.
Patients using any of the techniques in the studies had significantly improved scores on scales rating anxiety, mood, and symptoms of distress.
I actually believe that in many cases, chronic anxiety is just a bad habit. A bad, deeply ingrained habit. It is a poor coping mechanism that gets learned as children and often from anxious parents. Meditation can serve as a good habit that can replace the habit of worrying that causes all that anxiety in the first place.
Yes, I'm in total agreement with you, Stephanie. I grew up a very anxious child and it pretty much followed me into adulthood because of the many fear-based patterns that I was raised with. It is still sometimes a struggle to get through anxious or fear-based thoughts but I've definitely found that the practice of stilling your mind and meditating has been conducive to cutting through all the crap.