Mindfulness Proves As Good As Drugs For Depression Relapse

 7th Dec 2015

A study conducted by researchers at Oxford University has discovered the benefits of mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) on individuals experiencing relapses of depression were equal to that of conventional prescription medication.


MBCT is a form of cognitive therapy which prioritises the individuals awareness of their current situation whilst taking an outside, neutral perspective on their feelings and emotions. It aims to remove depressive and negative thoughts by accepting them without judgement and achieving detachment.

People who experience instances of depression can often relapse and those who have had three or more episodes can be as high as 80% likely to relapse again. This creates a cyclical characteristic of the illness; however, MBCT can be undertaken to help alleviate this.

The Trial

The trial was conducted over the space of two years with the aim of discovering whether or not MBCT could be utilised to taper (help reduce the dosage of medication) or replace the use of antidepressants entirely.

A total of 424 adults from the UK were involved in the study, all of whom had already been diagnosed with recurrent major depressive disorder, experienced three or more previous major depressive episodes and were taking antidepressants for preventative measures.

Each individual continued to take medication to begin with, with half of the group (212) assigned to an MBCT course and the other half continuing as normal.

The Results

The results proved to be incredibly successful as, with the assistance of a general practitioner and therapist, around 70% of the group were able to completely stop taking anti-depressants, 17% lowered their medication intake and only 13% of the group chose not to lower their dosage.

Despite a large majority of people finding the programme to be as beneficial as their medication, it must be noted between 4 and 5 out of every 10 people experienced a relapse during the two year trial, showing severe depressive disorder treatments still do not have a high success rate.

The findings do advocate the use of MBCT however, with the programme being used either in unison with an antidepressant prescription or as a direct replacement for it. This is especially advantageous for people who either do not want to take medication or have not reacted positively to its use.

Encompass Dorset provide a variety of services designed to improve the lives of people suffering from a mental health illness whilst still maintaining their independence.

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