FORM of mental training which helps people recognise the onset of depression, and control it, works as well as anti-depressants in preventing relapse, researchers say.
Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy may offer a welcome alternative for people wishing to avoid long-term use of anti-depressants, which can have unpleasant side effects like insomnia, constipation and sexual problems, according to a study in The Lancet medical journal.
In a two-year trial with 424 depression sufferers in England, researchers found that MBCT users faced a “similar” risk of relapse to those on anti-depressants.
The method was not more effective than drugs, as many had hoped. But the findings nevertheless suggested “a new choice for the millions of people with recurrent depression on repeat prescriptions”, said study leader Willem Kuyken, a professor of clinical psychology at the University of Oxford.
The study claims to be the first-ever, large-scale comparison between the efficacy of MBCT and anti-depressants. Trial volunteers were randomly divided into two groups. Half continued taking their medication while the rest phased out the drugs in favour of MBCT.
The training involved eight group sessions of two hours and 15 minutes each, with daily home practice. Participants were given the option of four follow-up sessions over the following 12 months. All 424 volunteers were assessed for a period of two years with a diagnostic tool called the “structured clinical interview”, which measures mental state.
The MBCT group had a 44-per cent relapse rate, the researchers found, compared to 47 per cent in the group taking anti-depressants.
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