Researchers in the U.K. have found that mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) may offer just as much protection from depression relapse as antidepressants, with no significant difference in cost, according to a new study published in the journal The Lancet.
“Depression is a recurrent disorder. Without ongoing treatment, as many as four out of five people with depression relapse at some point,” said Dr. Willem Kuyken, lead author and professor of clinical psychology at the University of Oxford.
MBCT teaches people with recurrent depression to recognize and respond constructively to the thoughts and feelings associated with depression relapse, thereby preventing a downward spiral into depression.
“Currently, maintenance antidepressant medication is the key treatment for preventing relapse, reducing the likelihood of relapse or recurrence by up to two-thirds when taken correctly,” said study co-author Dr. Richard Byng, from the Plymouth University Peninsula Schools of Medicine and Dentistry.
“However, there are many people who, for a number of different reasons, are unable to keep on a course of medication for depression. Moreover, many people do not wish to remain on medication for indefinite periods, or cannot tolerate its side effects.”
The study involved 424 adults with recurrent major depression who were taking maintenance antidepressant medication. Participants were randomly assigned to come off their antidepressant medication slowly and receive MBCT (212 participants) or to stay on their medication (212 participants).
MBCT participants attended eight 2-¼ hour group sessions and were given daily home practice. They took part in guided mindfulness practices, group discussion and other cognitive behavioral exercises.
After the group, they had the option of attending four follow-up sessions over a 12-month period. Participants in the maintenance antidepressant group kept taking their medication for two years.
Over two years, relapse rates in both groups were similar (44 percent in the MBCT group vs. 47 percent in the maintenance antidepressant medication group).
“As a group intervention, mindfulness-based cognitive therapy was relatively low cost compared to therapies provided on an individual basis and, in terms of the cost of all health and social care services used by participants during the study, we found no significant difference between the two treatments,” said study co-author Dr. Sarah Byford, from the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience at King’s College London, U.K.
Source: The Lancet