Buddhism and the Merit of Mindfulness Therapies

Depression, the driver of Mindfulness therapies

The World Health Organisation predicted that by the year 2020 depression will impose the second largest burden of ill health worldwide.

The tell tale signs of depression range from prolonged sadness, anxiety, lack of motivation, hopelessness to fatigue.

The most common and seemingly most cost effective treatment for depression is antidepressant medication prescribed by medical practitioners (GP’s).

However, 50% of clients taking antidepressants report that once they discontinue their use, depression returns with a vengeance, even though they have been diagnosed as depression free when taken off medication. The most challenging problem is that those who are experiencing a second or third episode of depression increase their chances by as much as 90% to have a relapse of depression sometime in future. It has also been noted that the earlier in life depression has occurred in the individual, the more likely they are to suffer a relapse.

Thus, it is unsurprising to see why many people are seeking alternatives to drugs.

It is now known that during an episode of depression negative mood (i.e. fatigue or sluggishness) occurs alongside negative thinking (i.e. I am worthless, a failure, etc.). Once the mood has eventually normalised the negative thoughts and feelings have disappeared as well.

Hence, new research explains the pathology of depression now to be as follows:

During an episode of depression, negative mood has been associated with negative thought patterns (stimulus and response pattern). This is resulting in the likelihood that once a situation or circumstance triggers a relatively small amount of sluggish mood, negative thinking will invariably arise by association. Even if not relevant to the situation, the individual making that association will again begin to think he or she is a failure, worthless, etc. and thus feel like they are back to where they started.

This is where the cycle begins the individual gets stuck in a ruminating loop in which s/he asks ‘why is this happening?’ The longer the individual asks that question in desperation to finding a solution, the longer and deeper the mood spiral winds on potentially leading into another bout of full blown depression.

Understanding that there is a link between negative moods and thoughts show that it is possible to stop negative thoughts from spiralling out of control through learning how to manage our thinking with the help of mental strategies, i.e. mindfulness. CBT, etc.

To properly evaluate some of these more common approaches, a short historical outline of mindfulness in psychology is presented further below.

Last updated by at .