Berlin, Germany—New research from the University of Berlin reveals benefits of mindfulness meditation for schizophrenia disorder.
New research conducted by the University of Berlin and the Centre for Mental Health at the Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne, Australia, shows mindfulness meditation can help with schizophrenia disorder.
Researchers created an interview guide to help people with schizophrenia to self-assess their symptoms before and after a mindfulness intervention. Twenty-seven interviews were conducted between September 2017 and October 2018.
Participants were asked to rate themselves on symptoms such as “detachment and rumination”, “presence and getting lost”, “non-judgment and judgment”, and effects with “emotions”, “cognition”, and “symptom changes”, and functioning.
Researchers noted that mindfulness helped schizophrenics with cognition, stress, and psychopathology and noted no adverse side-effects.
Schizophrenic disorders account for 13% of patients in psychiatric hospitals in Germany.
Schizophrenia is marked by positive symptoms that are amplified by delusions, disorganized thinking, and hallucinations; negative symptoms regarding emotional expression, anhedonia, blunted affect and scarcity of speech; and cognitive impairment. The majority of people with schizophrenia also experience anxiety [READ: Meditation for Anxiety].
Schizophrenia is often treated with psychological support, psychopharmacology, and cognitive behavioural therapy exercises . However, due to financial constraints many people are unable to receive these treatments.
How Mindfulness Meditation Helps Schizophrenia
Mindfulness meditation is a traditional form of Buddhist meditation. The word itself can be translated from Pali to mean “Remembering”, which refers to remembering to be aware. Mindfulness is the practice of focusing the mind on the present moment with a non-judgmental attitude.
Mindfulness became popular in the West through the work of notable teachers like Jon Kabat Zinn and Thich Nhat Hanh.
Mindfulness is about nonjudgment, nonreactivity, detachment, acceptance, and compassion. It is used in psychotherapy to cultivate a clearer perspective and the acceptance of symptoms .
Mindfulness-based interventions can help with a number of psychiatric disorders . The UK National Institute for Health And Clinical Excellence, and the Canadian Network for Mood and Anxiety Treatments advocate mindfulness-based interventions for the treatment of disorders, such as anxiety, depression, and eating disorders.
To conduct their research, scientists from the University of Berlin implements patients at Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin, Campus Benjamin Franklin. Participants had a mean age of 35.8; 21 participants were diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and six with schizoaffective disorder. The participants were given regular treatment that included psychotherapy, social work assistance, occupational therapy and exercise therapy.
The mindfulness-based group therapy were taught mindfulness studies that were adapted to their condition. The group were given a four-week program with three sessions per week, one sixty minute main session and two consolidated sessions. The mindfulness sessions were shortened to less than 15 minutes and periods of silene were kept to less than fifteen seconds. The main sessions began with a 10-minute recap of the previous week, then a 15 minute interactive psychoeducation on the principles of mindfulness (detachment, non-judgment, and present-moment-mindfulness). A 10-15 minute period was used to practice different exercises including detachment, sensory awareness, body awareness, and breathing. Finally, there was a ten minute period of sharing and 5 minutes to give each participant individual goals for the week.
Observed benefits of mindfulness meditation in schizophrenia disorders
The results of the tests pinpointed several benefits of mindfulness meditation for schizophrenia disorders:
Researchers state that many participants observed an improvement in the ability to notice the coming and going of thoughts, emotions and sensations without attaching to them. One participant stated, “When the stress came up, many thoughts, such as tide and then slowly the tension, I could put off everything by the deep inhale and exhale.”
Some participants were able to identify that their thoughts were just a part of themselves.
“So, to realize that they [the symptoms] are only part of more in me. That I am not always just my symptoms that I can let go. (…) I am much more besides my symptoms,” said one participant.
The researchers state that this shows an increase in self-understanding. Participants noticed increased awareness of both positive and negative emotions like worry and anxiety and were better able to return to the present moment by focusing on the breath.
Judgments also reduced. Many participants were able to observe their thoughts and emotions objectively without judgment.
Many participants noticed improved relaxation.
Participants stated that they were interested in learning to apply mindfulness meditation to everyday life.
Many observed increased awareness of sensory stimulation, and many particularly enjoyed meditating on Tibetan Singing Bowls.
None of the participants noticed increased negative symptoms.
The study highlights numerous benefits of mindfulness meditation for schizophrenia disorders with no increase in negative symptoms. And the fact that mindfulness can be practiced for free (unlike CBT and other procedures, which usually require professional support) means that mindfulness is an incredibly useful tool.