Given the high prevalence of burdensome symptoms in palliative care (PC) and the increasing use of so-called alternative medicine (SCAM) therapies, research is needed to determine how often and what types of SCAM therapies providers recommend to manage symptoms in PC.
This survey documented recommendation rates of SCAM for target symptoms and assessed if, SCAM use varies by provider characteristics. The investigators conducted US nationwide surveys of MDs, DOs, physician assistants, and nurse practitioners working in PC.
Participants (N = 404) were mostly female (71.3%), MDs/DOs (74.9%), and cared for adults (90.4%). Providers recommended SCAM an average of 6.8 times per month (95% CI: 6.0-7.6) and used an average of 5.1 (95% CI: 4.9-5.3) out of 10 listed SCAM modalities. Respondents recommended mostly:
- mind-body medicines (e.g., meditation, biofeedback),
The most targeted symptoms included:
- mood disturbances,
Recommendation frequencies for specific modality-for-symptom combinations ranged from little use (e.g. aromatherapy for constipation) to occasional use (e.g. mind-body interventions for psychiatric symptoms). Finally, recommendation rates increased as a function of pediatric practice, noninpatient practice setting, provider age, and proportion of effort spent delivering palliative care.
The authors concluded that to the best of our knowledge, this is the first national survey to characterize PC providers’ SCAM recommendation behaviors and assess specific therapies and common target symptoms. Providers recommended a broad range of SCAM but do so less frequently than patients report using SCAM. These findings should be of interest to any provider caring for patients with serious illness.
Initially, one might feel encouraged by these data. Mind-body therapies are indeed supported by reasonably sound evidence for the symptoms listed. The evidence is, however, not convincing for many other forms of SCAM, in particular massage or acupuncture/acupressure. So encouragement is quickly followed by disappointment.
Some people might say that in PC one must not insist on good evidence: if the patient wants it, why not? But the point is that there are several forms of SCAMs that are backed by good evidence for use in PC. So, why not follow the evidence and use those? It seems to me that it is not in the patients’ best interest to disregard the evidence in medicine – and this, of course, includes PC.
You haven’t heard of religious/spiritual singing and movement as a treatment for mental health?
But it does exist. This review explored the evidence of religious/spiritual (R/S) singing and R/S movement (dynamic meditation and praise dance), in relation to mental health outcomes.
After registering with PROSPERO (CRD42020189495), a systematic search of three major databases (CINAHL, MEDLINE, and PsycINFO) was undertaken using predetermined eligibility criteria. Reference lists of identified papers and additional sources such as Google Scholar were searched. The quality of studies was assessed using the Mixed Method Appraisal Tool (MMAT). Data were extracted, tabulated, and synthesized according to the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews (PRISMA) guidelines.
Seven of the 259 identified articles met inclusion criteria. Three studies considered R/S singing, while four considered R/S movement. In R/S movements, three studies considered dynamic meditation while one investigated praise dance. Although moderate to poor in quality, included studies indicated a positive trend for the effectiveness of R/S singing and movement in dealing with mental health concerns.
The authors concluded that, while R/S singing and R/S movement (praise dance and dynamic meditation) may be of value as mental health strategies, findings of the review need to be considered with caution due to methodological constraints. The limited number and poor quality of included studies highlight the need for further quality research in these R/S practices in mental health.
I am glad the authors caution us not to take their findings seriously. To be honest, I was not in danger of making this mistake. Neither do I feel the need for further research in this area. Mental health is a serious issue, and personally, I think we should research it not by conducting ridiculous studies of implausible modalities.
I do not doubt that the experience of singing or movement can help in certain situations. However, I have my doubts about religious/spiritual singing and movement therapy.
The present study investigated the impact of a purposefully designed Islamic religion-based intervention on reducing depression and anxiety disorders among Muslim patients using a randomised controlled trial design. A total of 62 Muslim patients (30 women and 32 men) were divided by gender into two groups, with each group assigned randomly to either treatment or control groups. The participants who received the Islamic-based intervention were compared to participants who received the control intervention.
The Islamic-Based Intervention that was applied to the two experimental groups (i.e. one male, one female) has several components. These components were based on moral and religious concepts and methods, including moral confession, repentance, insight, learning, supplication, seeking Allah’s mercy, seeking forgiveness, remembrance of Allah, patience, trust in Allah, self-consciousness, piety, spiritual values, and moral principles. The techniques implemented in the intervention included the art of asking questions, clarifying, listening, interacting, summarising, persuading, feedback, empathy, training practice, reflecting feelings, discussion, and dialogue, lecturing, brainstorming, reinforcement, modeling, positive self-talk, evaluation, homework, practical applications, activation games (play through activities), emotional venting, stories, presentation, correction of thoughts, and relaxation. The two control groups (i.e. one male, one female) received the energy path program provided by the Al-Nour Centre. This program aimed to enhance self-confidence and modify people’s behavior with anxiety disorders, depression, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Both interventions comprised 30 sessions over 30 h; two sessions were conducted per week, and each session lasted for 60 min (one hour). The duration of the intervention was 15 weeks.
Taylor’s manifest anxiety scale and Steer and Beck’s depression scale were used for examining the effects on depression and anxiety levels. The results revealed that the Islamic intervention significantly reduced anxiety levels in women and depression levels in men compared to the typical care control groups.
The authors concluded that religious intervention played a vital role in lowering the patients’ level of anxiety among women and depression among men. In general, religious practices prevent individuals from becoming subject to mental disorders, i.e. anxiety and depression.
The authors comment that the Islamic religion-based intervention (RSAFI) significantly reduced the levels of depression and anxiety among the participants. Also, there was a substantial improvement in the patients’ general health after the intervention. They were satisfied and believed that everything happening to them was destined by Allah. These results could be attributed to the different intervention practices that relied on the guidance of the Holy Quran and Sunnah. For instance, Saged et al. (2020) confirmed that the Holy Quran significantly impacts healing patients who suffer from physical, psychological, and mental disorders. In this respect, Moodley et al. (2018) concluded that having faith in Allah offers a relatively quick approach to healing patients suffering from heartache and depression. This goes hand in hand because the recitation of the Quran and remembrance of Allah help patients feel relaxed and peaceful. Muslims believe that the Quran is the word of Allah and that Allah’s words exert a significant impact on the healing of mental health patients, as, ultimately, Almighty Allah is the one who cures illnesses.
When discussing the limitations of their study, the authors state that the sample of this study was limited to the patients with anxiety and depression disorders at the Al-Nour Centre in Kuala Lumpur, so the results cannot be generalized to other samples. Furthermore, the treatment of anxiety was restricted to females, whereas the treatment of depression was restricted to males. Additionally, the selection of females and males as samples for the study was based on their pre-measurement of anxiety and depression, which serve as self-report measures.
The authors seem to be unconcerned about the fact that the 2 interventions (verum and control) were clearly distinguishable and their patients thus were not blinded (and neither were the evaluators). This obviously means that the observed effect might have nothing at all to do with the Islamic-Based Intervention but could be entirely due to expectation and persuasion.
Why might the authors not even bother to discuss such an obvious possibility?
A look at their affiliations might provide the answer:
- 1Academy of Islamic Studies, University of Malaya, 50603, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. firstname.lastname@example.org.
- 2Academy of Islamic Studies, University of Malaya, 50603, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
- 3Faculty of Education, Universiti Teknologi Malaysia, Johor, Malaysia.
- 4Faculty of Education, University of Malaya, 50603, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
- 5Islamic Banking and Finance, International Islamic University Malaysia, Selangor, Malaysia.
- 6Department of Hadith and Associated Sciences, Nourah Bint Abdulrahman University, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
Bioresonance is an alternative therapeutic and diagnostic method employing a device developed in Germany by Scientology member Franz Morell in 1977. The bioresonance machine was further developed and marketed by Morell’s son-in-law Erich Rasche and is also known as ‘MORA’ therapy (MOrell + RAsche). Bioresonance is based on the notion that one can diagnose and treat illness with electromagnetic waves and that, via resonance, such waves can influence disease on a cellular level.
On this blog, we have discussed the idiocy bioresonance several times (for instance, here and here). My favorite study of bioresonance is the one where German investigators showed that the device cannot even differentiate between living and non-living materials. Despite the lack of plausibility and proof of efficacy, research into bioresonance continues.
The aim of this study was to evaluate if bioresonance therapy can offer quantifiable results in patients with recurrent major depressive disorder and with mild, moderate, or severe depressive episodes.
The study included 140 patients suffering from depression, divided into three groups.
- The first group (40 patients) received solely bioresonance therapy.
- The second group (40 patients) received pharmacological treatment with antidepressants combined with bioresonance therapy.
- The third group (60 patients) received solely pharmacological treatment with antidepressants.
The assessment of depression was made using the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale, with 17 items, at the beginning of the bioresonance treatment and the end of the five weeks of treatment.
The results showed a statistically significant difference for the treatment methods applied to the analyzed groups (p=0.0001). The authors also found that the therapy accelerates the healing process in patients with depressive disorders. Improvement was observed for the analyzed groups, with a decrease of the mean values between the initial and final phase of the level of depression, of delta for Hamilton score of 3.1, 3.8 and 2.3, respectively.
The authors concluded that the bioresonance therapy could be useful in the treatment of recurrent major depressive disorder with moderate depressive episodes independently or as a complementary therapy to antidepressants.
One could almost think that this is a reasonably sound study. But why did it generate such a surprising result?
When reading the full paper, the first thing one notices is that it is poorly presented and badly written. Thus there is much confusion and little clarity. The questions keep coming until one comes across this unexpected remark: the study was a retrospective study…
This explains some of the confusion and it certainly explains the surprising results. It remains unclear how the patients were selected/recruited but it is obvious that the groups were not comparable in several ways. It also becomes very clear that with the methodology used, one can make any nonsense look effective.
In the end, I am left with the impression that mutton is being presented as lamb, even worse: I think someone here is misleading us by trying to convince us that an utterly bogus therapy is effective. In my view, this study is as clear an example of scientific misconduct as I have seen for a long time.
This systematic review examined the efficacy of acupressure on depression. Literature searches were performed on PubMed, PsycINFO, Scopus, Embase, MEDLINE, and China National Knowledge (CNKI). Randomized clinical trials (RCTs) or single-group trials in which acupressure was compared with various control methods or baseline (i.e. no treatment) in people with depression were included. Data were synthesized using a random-effects or a fixed-effects model to analyze the impacts of acupressure treatment on depression and anxiety in people with depression. The primary outcome measures were depression symptoms quantified by various means. Subgroups were created, and meta-regression analyses were performed to explore which factors are relevant to the greater or lesser effects of treating symptoms.
A total of 14 RCTs (1439 participants) were identified. Analysis of the between-group showed that acupressure was effective in reducing depression [Standardized mean differences (SMDs) = -0.58, 95%CI: -0.85 to -0.32, P < 0.0001] and anxiety (SMD = -0.67, 95%CI: -0.99 to -0.36, P < 0.0001) in participants with mild-to-moderate primary and secondary depression. Subgroup analyses suggested that acupressure significantly reduced depressive symptoms compared with different controlled conditions and in participants with different ages, clinical conditions, and duration of intervention. Adverse events, including hypotension, dizziness, palpitation, and headache, were reported in only one study.
The authors concluded that the evidence of acupressure for mild-to-moderate depressive symptoms was significant. Importantly, the findings should be interpreted with caution due to study limitations. Future research with a well-designed mixed method is required to consolidate the conclusion and provide an in-depth understanding of potential mechanisms underlying the effects.
I think that more than caution is warranted when interpreting these data. In fact, it would have been surprising if the meta-analyses had NOT generated an overall positive result. This is because in several studies there was no attempt to control for the extra attention or the placebo effect of administering acupressure. In most of the trials where this had been taken care of (i.e. patient-blinded, sham-controlled studies), there were no checks for the success of blinding. Thus it is possible, even likely that many patients correctly guessed what treatment they received. In turn, this means that the outcomes of these trials were also largely due to placebo effects.
Overall, this paper is therefore a prime example of a biased review of biased primary studies. The phenomenon can be aptly described by the slogan:
RUBBISH IN, RUBBISH OUT!
Qigong can be described as a mind-body-spirit practice that improves one’s mental and physical health by integrating posture, movement, breathing technique, self-massage, sound, and focused intent. But does it really improve health?
The purpose of this review was to evaluate the effectiveness of Qigong in improving the quality of life and relieving fatigue, sleep disturbance, and cancer-related emotional disturbances (distress, depression, and anxiety) in women with breast cancer.
The PubMed, Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, Web of Science, Sinomed, Wanfang, VIP, and China National Knowledge Infrastructure databases were searched from their inceptions to March 2020 for controlled clinical trials. Two reviewers selected relevant trials that assessed the benefit of Qigong for breast cancer patients independently. A methodological quality assessment was conducted according to the criteria of the 12 Cochrane Back Review Group for risk of bias independently. A meta-analysis was performed using Review Manager 5.3.
A total of 17 trials were found in which 1236 cases were enrolled. The quality of the included trials was generally low, as only 5 of them were rated high quality. 14 studies were conducted in China. The types of qigong included Baduanjin Qigong (9 trials), Chan-Chuang Qigong (1 trial), Goulin New Qigong (2 Trials), Tai Chi Qigong (2 Trials), and Kuala Lumpur Qigong (1 trial). The course of qigong ranged from 21 days to more than 6 months. Four trials compared qigong to no treatment, one sham Qigong, seven compared to other types of exercise, and 6 to usual care.
The results showed significant positive effects of Qigong on quality of life (n = 950, standardized mean difference (SMD), 0.65, 95 % confidence interval (CI) 0.23–1.08, P = 0.002). Depression (n = 540, SMD = −0.32, 95 % CI −0.59 to −0.04, P = 0.02) and anxiety (n = 439, SMD = −0.71, 95 % CI −1.32 to −0.10, P = 0.02) were also significantly relieved in the Qigong group. There was no significant benefit on fatigue (n = 401, SMD = −0.32, 95 % CI 0.71 to 0.07, P = 0.11) or sleep disturbance relief compared to that observed in the control group (n = 298, SMD = −0.11, 95 % CI 0.74 to 0.52, P = 0.73).
The authors concluded that this review shows that Qigong is beneficial for improving quality of life and relieving depression and anxiety; thus, Qigong should be encouraged in women with breast cancer.
No, this review does not show that Qigong is beneficial for improving quality of life and relieving depression and anxiety!
- Most primary studies were of very poor quality.
- Most were from China, and we know (and have often discussed) that such trials are most unreliable.
- No trial even attempted to control for placebo effects.
A better conclusion would therefore be something like this:
Even though most trials conclude positively, the value of Qigong can, for a range of reasons, not be determined on the basis of the evidence available to date.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), previously known as battle fatigue syndrome or shell shock, is a condition that can be triggered by the experience of some frightening event. PTSD can be debilitating leading to the production of feelings of helplessness, intense fear, and horror. Numerous treatments of PTSD exist but few have been shown to be truly effective. A team of Canadian researchers explored the effects of cannabis on PTSD symptoms, quality of life (QOL), and return to work (RTW). Their systematic review also investigated harms such as adverse effects and dropouts due to adverse effects, inefficacy, and all-cause dropout rates.
Their electronic searches located one RCT and 10 observational studies (n = 4672). Risk of bias (RoB) was assessed with the Cochrane risk of bias tool and ROBINS-I. Evidence from the included studies was mainly based on studies with no comparators. Results from unpooled, high RoB studies suggested that cannabis was associated with a reduction in overall PTSD symptoms and improved QOL. Dry mouth, headaches, and psychoactive effects such as agitation and euphoria were the most commonly reported adverse effects. In most studies, cannabis was well tolerated. A small proportion of patients experienced a worsening of PTSD symptoms.
The authors concluded that the evidence in the current study primarily stems from low quality and high RoB observational studies. Further RCTs investigating cannabis effects on PTSD treatment should be conducted with larger sample sizes and explore a broader range of patient-important outcomes.
Various drugs are currently used for the treatment of PTSD including selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors; tricyclic antidepressants (amitriptyline and isocarboxazid); mood stabilizers (Divalproex and lamotrigine); atypical antipsychotics (aripiprazole and quetiapine) but their effectiveness has not been proven. A recent systematic review included 30 RCTs of a range of heterogeneous non-psychological and non-pharmacological interventions. There was emerging evidence for 6 different approaches:
- saikokeishikankyoto (a herbal preparation),
- somatic experiencing,
- transcranial magnetic stimulation,
This list makes me wonder: are these treatments, including cannabis, truly promising, or is PTSD one of those conditions for which nearly every treatment works a little because of its placebo effect?
‘CLAMP DOWN ON THE BOGUS SCIENCE OF HOMEOPATHY’ is the title of a comment by Oliver Klamm in The Times today. Here is the background to his article.
In September 2020, the website of Homeopathy UK, www.homeopathy-uk.org, featured a page titled “Conditions Directory” with text that stated “Please find below a list of conditions where homeopathy can help …” followed by a list of medical conditions that included depression, diabetes, infertility, psoriasis and asthma. When consumers clicked-through the links to the conditions listed on that page, they were taken to separate pages for each that contained anecdotal descriptions from doctors detailing how they had applied homeopathic methods to the relevant conditions.
The UK Advertising Standards Authority received a complainant that challenged whether the ad discouraged essential treatment for conditions for which medical supervision should be sought, namely depression, diabetes, infertility, psoriasis and asthma.
The response of ‘Homeopathy UK’ said that, as a registered charity, they sought to share information about homeopathy for the benefit of others, rather than for commercial gain, and that they would always recommend that patients seeking homeopathic care did so under the supervision of a qualified medical practitioner…
The CAP Code required that marketers must not discourage essential treatment for conditions for which medical supervision should be sought. For example, they must not offer specific advice on, diagnosis or treatment for such conditions unless that advice, diagnosis or treatment was conducted under the supervision of a suitably qualified medical professional. The ad referred to “depression”, “diabetes”, “infertility”, “psoriasis” and “asthma”, which we considered were conditions for which medical supervision should be sought. Any advice, diagnosis or treatment, therefore, must be conducted under the supervision of a suitably qualified medical professional. We acknowledged that the articles had been written by GMC-registered doctors, who we considered would be suitably qualified to offer advice, diagnosis or treatment. However, we noted that the ad and the articles to which it linked referred to homeopathy in general, rather than treatment by a specific individual. We understood that there were no minimum professional qualifications required to practice homeopathy, which could result in consumers being advised, diagnosed, or treated for the conditions listed in the ad by a practitioner with no medical qualification. We therefore considered Homeopathy UK would not be able to demonstrate that all such treatment would be conducted under the supervision of a suitably qualified health professional.
Furthermore, we understood that, although elsewhere on the website there were links to specific clinics, not all treatment would be conducted under the supervision of a suitably qualified health professional across those clinics. Because Homeopathy UK had not supplied evidence that treatment would always be carried out by a suitably qualified health professional. Also, because reference to the conditions listed in the ad, and discussed in the related articles, could discourage consumers from seeking essential treatment under the supervision of a suitably qualified health professional, we concluded that the ad had breached the Code.
On that point the ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rule 12.2 (Medicines, medical devices, health-related products and beauty products).
The ad must not appear again in the form complained about. We told Homeopathy UK to ensure their future marketing communications did not to refer to conditions for which advice should be sought from suitably qualified health professionals.
Depression, diabetes, and asthma have few things in common. Just two characteristics stand out, in my view:
- they are potentially fatal;
- homeopathy is ineffective in changing their natural history.
- It was therefore high time that the ASA stopped this criminally dangerous nonsense of deluded homeopaths.
The article by Oliver Klamm concludes with the following wise words about homeopathy:
“For public officials and opinion formers, the time for appeasing this dangerous quackery should be long past.”
Reflexology (originally called ‘zone therapy’ by its inventor) is a manual technique where pressure is applied to the sole of the patient’s foot. Reflexology is said to have its roots in ancient cultures. Its current popularity goes back to the US doctor William Fitzgerald (1872-1942) who did some research in the early 1900s and thought to have discovered that the human body is divided into 10 zones each of which is represented on the sole of the foot. Reflexologists thus drew maps of the sole of the foot where all the body’s organs are depicted. Numerous such maps have been published and, embarrassingly, they do not all agree with each other as to the location of our organs on the sole of our feet. By massaging specific zones which are assumed to be connected to specific organs, reflexologists believe to positively influence the function of these organs.
So, does reflexology do more good than harm?
The aim of this review was to conduct a systematic review, meta-analysis, and metaregression to determine the current best available evidence of the efficacy and safety of foot reflexology for adult depression, anxiety, and sleep quality.
Twenty-six studies could be included. The meta-analyses showed that foot reflexology intervention significantly improved adult depression, anxiety, and sleep quality. Metaregression revealed that an increase in total foot reflexology time and duration can significantly improve sleep quality.
The authors concluded that foot reflexology may provide additional nonpharmacotherapy intervention for adults suffering from depression, anxiety, or sleep disturbance. However, high quality and rigorous design RCTs in specific population, along with an increase in participants, and a long-term follow-up are recommended in the future.
Finally a so-called alternative medicine (SCAM) that is backed by soild evidence!
Or perhaps not?
Here are a few concerns that lead me to doubt these conclusions:
- Most of the primary studies were of poor methodological quality.
- Most studies failed to mention adverse effects.
- Very few studies controlled for placebo effects.
- There was evidence of publication bias (negative studies tended to remain unpublished).
- Studies published in languages other than English were not considered.
- The authors fail to point out that a foot massage is, of course, agreeable (and thus may relieve a range of symptoms), but reflexology with all its weird assumptions is less than plausible.
- Many of the studies located by the authors were excluded for reasons that are less than clear.
The last point seems particularly puzzling. Our own trial, for instance, was excluded because, according to the review authors, it did not include relevant outcomes. However, our method secion makes it clear that the primary focus for this study was the subscores for anxiety and depression, which comprise four and seven items, respectively. As it happens, our study was negative.
Also cuirous is the fact that the authors did not mention our own 2011 systematic review of reflexology:
Reflexology is a popular form of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). The aim of this update is to critically evaluate the evidence for or against the effectiveness of reflexology in patients with any type of medical condition. Six electronic databases were searched to identify all relevant randomised clinical trials (RCTs). Their methodological quality was assessed independently by the two reviewers using the Jadad score. Overall, 23 studies met all inclusion criteria. They related to a wide range of medical conditions. The methodological quality of the RCTs was often poor. Nine high quality RCTs generated negative findings; and five generated positive findings. Eight RCTs suggested that reflexology is effective for the following conditions: diabetes, premenstrual syndrome, cancer patients, multiple sclerosis, symptomatic idiopathic detrusor over-activity and dementia yet important caveats remain. It is concluded that the best clinical evidence does not demonstrate convincingly reflexology to be an effective treatment for any medical condition.
I wonder why!
Mindfulness is one of the 150 so-called alternative medicines (SCAMs) that I have evaluated in my recent book ‘Alternative Medicine: A Critical Assessment of 150 Modalities‘. Here is an excerpt from my text:
Mindfulness is a form of meditation which involves bringing one’s attention to experiences occurring in the present moment while sitting silently and paying attention to thoughts, sounds, the sensations of breathing or parts of the body.
- Many experts do not consider mindfulness to be an alternative therapy but see it as a set of psychological methods that have long become well-accepted, conventional treatments.
- There are several forms of mindfulness meditation; one of the best-known and most thoroughly researched is Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction developed by Jon Kabat-Zinn (1944- ). It uses a combination of mindfulness meditation, body awareness, and yoga to help people become more mindful.
- Mindfulness programs are currently popular and have been widely adopted in schools, hospitals, and other settings. They are also being applied to initiatives such as for healthy aging, weight management, athletic performance enhancement, for children with special needs, and as a help during the perinatal period.
- Novices are advised to start with short periods of about 10 minutes of meditation practice per day. With regular practice, it becomes easier to keep the attention focused and the length of time spent practising can be extended.
- There has been much research interest in mindfulness, and many studies are now available. However, the quality of these trials is often poor which is one reason why the evidence is less clear than one would hope.
- Several systematic reviews have assessed mindfulness for various medical conditions, e. g.:
- A systematic review of mindfulness for chronic headaches concluded that, due to the low number, small scale and often high or unclear risk of bias of included randomized controlled trials, the results are imprecise; this may be consistent with either an important or negligible effect. Therefore, more rigorous trials with larger sample sizes are needed.
- A systematic review of mindfulness for addictions found support for the effectiveness of the mindfulness-based interventions.
- An overview included 26 reviews and found a substantially consistent picture… Improvements in depressive disorders, particularly recurrent major depression, were strongly supported. Evidence for other psychological conditions was limited by lack of data. In populations with physical conditions, the evidence for significant improvements in psychological well-being was clear, regardless of population or specific mindfulness intervention. Changes in physical health measures were inconclusive; however, pain acceptance and coping were improved.
- Some reports have linked mindfulness to increasing fear and anxiety panic or “meltdowns” after treatments. However, these seem to be rare events; in general, mindfulness is considered to be a safe therapy.
Now there is new evidence regarding the safety of Mindfulness, including an estimate of the incidence of adverse effects. An article in the NEW SCIENTIST warned that 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 a paper which as yet is not available on-line.
Farias’s team combed through medical journals and found 55 relevant studies. Once the researchers had excluded those that had deliberately set out to find negative effects, they worked out the prevalence of people who experienced harms within each study and then calculated the average, adjusted for the study size, a common method in this kind of analysis. 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.
I will add a link to the original paper, once it has been published