A new study in JAMA Psychiatry shows that a mindfulness practice can treat anxiety just as well as drugs:
Many people may not be surprised to hear this result. It is especially good news for people who are growing a little wary of the overuse of pharmaceuticals (aka a pill for every ill).
It is interesting to compare the “action” of mindful practices to the action of Escitalopram, the drug in the study.
Escitalopram is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI). SSRI’s work by ensuring more serotonin remains in the blood supply of the brain. Serotonin is an important neurochemical responsible for learning, mood, behavior, and other things, and was found to be low in patients with depression and anxiety. The theory is, broadly speaking, serotonin makes us feel good, so if there is more serotonin around, then it is easier to feel good.
Mindfulness practices, defined in the article as “focusing only on what’s happening at the moment and dismissing intrusive thoughts”, most likely also modulates serotonin. But while Escitalopram only works on serotonin, perhaps mindfulness practices modulate more neurochemicals than just serotonin. If correct, mindfulness practices could, in the long run, pan out to be more effective.
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