Category: Health Magazine, Summer 2023

Title:Treating anxiety disorders with mindfulness

a person meditates on the beach while the sun rises
Photo: iStock

According to results of a first-of-its-kind, randomized clinical trial led by researchers at Georgetown University Medical Center, a guided mindfulness-based stress reduction program was as effective as use of the gold-standard drug escitalopram for patients with anxiety disorders.

Anxiety disorders include generalized anxiety, social anxiety, panic disorder, and fear of certain places or situations, including crowds and public transportation, all of which can lead to an increased risk for suicide, disability, and distress. Drugs that are currently prescribed can be very effective, but many patients either have difficulty getting them, do not respond to them, or find the side effects a barrier to consistent treatment.

“Our study provides evidence for clinicians, insurers, and health care systems to recommend, include, and provide reimbursement for mindfulness based stress reduction as an effective treatment for anxiety disorders because mindfulness meditation is currently reimbursed by very few providers,” says Elizabeth Hoge, director of the Anxiety Disorders Research Program, associate professor of psychiatry at Georgetown, and the study’s first author. “A big advantage is that it doesn’t require a clinical degree to train someone to become a mindfulness facilitator. Additionally, sessions can be done outside of a medical setting, such as at a school or community center.”

The findings appeared in the November issue of JAMA Psychiatry, less than a month after the United States Preventive Services Task Force recommended, for the first time, a screening for anxiety disorders due to their high prevalence.

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