Mindfulness Meditation for Schizophrenia Disorders

meditation for schizophrenia art

Research from the University of Berlin shows the benefits of mindfulness meditation for schizophrenia disorders.

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. The guide asked participants to assess their symptoms before and after the intervention. The intervention was entirely based on mindfulness. Twenty-seven interviews were conducted.

Participants were asked to rate themselves on symptoms, such as:

  • “detachment and rumination”
  • “presence and getting lost”
  • “non-judgment and judgment”
  • “emotions”
  • “cognition”,
  • “symptom changes”,
  • functioning.

Researchers say mindfulness helps schizophrenics with cognition, stress, and psychopathology and noted no adverse side effects.

Benefits of Mindfulness Meditation For Schizophrenia Disorders

Schizophrenic disorders account for 13% of patients in psychiatric hospitals in Germany.

The symptoms of schizophrenia [1] include:

  • positive symptoms that are amplified by delusions
  • disorganized thinking
  • 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 [2]. However, due to financial constraints, many people are unable to receive these treatments. Enter mindfulness.

A free treatment for schizophrenia is meditation

Mindfulness meditation is a traditional form of Buddhist meditation. The word “mindfulness actually means “Remembering”. Specifically, remembering to be aware. When we practise mindfulness we focus 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
  • compassion.

Mindfulness is used in psychotherapy to cultivate a clearer perspective and the acceptance of symptoms [2].

Mindfulness-based interventions can help with a number of psychiatric disorders [3]. 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.

 Research on mindfulness meditation and schizophrenia

mental health research

To conduct their research, scientists from the University of Berlin worked with 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 group learned special ways of practising mindfulness

Here’s how the mindfulness interventions worked:

  1. The group were given a four-week program with three sessions per week, one sixty-minute main session and two consolidated sessions.
  2. Mindfulness sessions were shortened to less than 15 minutes
  3. Periods of silence were kept to less than fifteen seconds.
  4. The main sessions began with a 10-minute recap of the previous week
  5. Then a 15 minute interactive psychoeducation on the principles of mindfulness (detachment, non-judgment, and present-moment-mindfulness).
  6. A 10-15 minute period was used to practice detachment, sensory awareness, body awareness, and breathing.
  7. A ten minute period of sharing
  8. 5 minutes to give each participant individual goals for the week.

Observed benefits of mindfulness meditation in schizophrenia disorders

woman with schizophrenia

The results of the tests pinpointed several benefits of mindfulness meditation for schizophrenia disorders:

  • Improvement ability to notice the coming and going of thoughts, emotions and sensations
  • Non-attachment.
  • One participant stated, “When the stress came up, I was able to put off everything by [deep breathing]”
  • Some participants were able to identify that their thoughts were just a part of themselves.
  • Increased levels of self-understanding.
  • Increased awareness of both positive and negative emotions like worry and anxiety.
  • Better able to return to the present moment by focusing on the breath.
  • Less judgment
  • Improved relaxation
  • Increased awareness of sensory stimulation
  • Many enjoyed meditating on Tibetan Singing Bowls.
  • None of the participants noticed increased negative symptoms.

Participants stated that they were interested in learning to apply mindfulness meditation to everyday life.

Conclusion

girl with schizophrenia looking sad

The study highlights numerous benefits of mindfulness meditation for schizophrenia disorders. And importantly, no increase in negative symptoms. And the fact that mindfulness can be practised for free (unlike CBT and other procedures, which usually require professional support) means that mindfulness is an incredibly useful tool.

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By Paul Harrison

Paul Harrison is a qualified meditation teacher and writer with more than 15 years experience in meditation and mindfulness. He studied meditation in Oxford, UK, and Hamilton Ontario Canada, and earned his degree at Staffordshire University. Paul has helped thousands of people to discover their true potential through mindfulness, yoga and meditation.