Mindfulness Helps People Live with Schizophrenia

Rob Wipond
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1650

Researchers report in the British Journal of Psychiatry that the ancient Buddhist practice of mindfulness meditation can help people live with schizophrenia symptoms. In the study, 107 outpatients in China with schizophrenia were divided into groups receiving routine care, conventional psychoeducation about schizophrenia, or education about mindfulness. “The mindfulness-based psychoeducation group reported significantly greater improvements in psychiatric symptoms, psychosocial functioning, insight into illness/treatment and duration of readmissions to hospital over 24 months when compared with the other two groups,” write the researchers.

Effects of a mindfulness-based psychoeducation programme for Chinese patients with schizophrenia: 2-year follow-up (Chien, Wai Tong and Thompson, David R. British Journal of Psychiatry. Published online ahead of print May 8, 2014, doi: 10.1192/bjp.bp.113.134635)

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Rob Wipond
Rob Wipond is a Victoria, British Columbia-based freelance journalist who has been writing on mental health issues for fifteen years. His research has particularly focused on the interfaces between psychiatry, the justice system, and civil rights. His articles have been nominated for three Canadian National Magazine Awards, six Western Magazine Awards, and four Jack Webster Awards for journalism. He can be contacted through his website.

17 COMMENTS

    • You’re right but I think for “mental disorders” it’s especially valuable. Meditation is known to reduce stress and stress is the cause of “mental illness” so teaching people to relive stress through various techniques like meditation is actually tackling the root of the problem.

  1. Hi
    Mindfulness meditation does work. I learnt it years ago. It helped me get rid of a terrible melancholy that had stalked me for years. The philosophy of Buddhism works for anxiety as well. It explains the dynamic of anxiety and how to reduce the effect.
    I don’t know if ‘Schizophrenia’ exists without anxiety.

    • According to what I’ve seen recently in science – no it doesn’t. Almost all mental disorders are caused by trauma and stress and the different symptoms are only individual manifestation of that (psychosis, depression, panic attacks, wherever you name it).

      • Hi B
        I don’t really buy into ‘Schizophrenia’ – its got a very sinister illness association. For myself, when I learned how to deal with anxiety differently (as attachment), I knew I was going to be able survive.
        But there again the dreadful anxiety I suffered from came from the medication withdrawal. The original ‘problems’ didn’t seem too serious to me.

  2. Interesting that mindfulness would help people live WITH schizophrenia symptoms. Okay, know anything that could help people live WITHOUT schizophrenia symptoms? I just have a problem with this idea that people must live perpetually with a disorder that can’t be shown by any reliable test to have a biological basis in the first place. Most people, I’m sure you will notice, have little problem living without schizophrenia symptoms. The question reposed becomes, what is it about certain people that do live with schizophrenia symptoms that make such symptoms so difficult to dispense with. If mindfulness could help them live without schizophrenia symptoms, well, then I think it would be a big improvement.

    • I don’t think of schizophrenia as a permanent condition any more than I think of an LSD trip as a permanent feature. It’s not just ‘if a person can cope with the symptoms”. I know that people can, and do, become asymptomatic. Once a person becomes asymptomatic, can he or she be said to have schizophrenia? I leave that one to you. I imagine not being symptomatic one would have to be characterized as non-schizophrenic. People can, and do, recover from what is characterized as schizophrenia. Can mindfulness help in this regard? I will leave it to someone who has lost their schizophrenia through mindfulness to answer that one. A person can lose their mind, true. It is my belief that a person can also, as Clifford Bears put it, find their mind. Is it not also equally true that if one is to find one’s mind, one might have to lose one’s “insanity”? If more people were allowed to “go through it”, that is, the schizophrenia experience, without chemical intervention, maybe more people would come out the other end completely intact. If you want a fly in the ointment so to speak, I also think it possible for a person to make error a lifetime pursuit regardless of all efforts to enlighten him or her.

      • “I imagine not being symptomatic one would have to be characterized as non-schizophrenic.”
        That should be the case. If you remove a tumour from someone they are not a cancer patient anymore and only if the tumour returns they become a patient again. But schizophrenic” – you’re supposed to be that for life even if you only experienced psychosis for a short time.

  3. Hi Frank
    They say there’s no such thing as a completely rational person, symptoms of ‘mental illness’ can be found in everyone.
    The ‘distressing’ side to ‘Schizophrenia’ is the out of proportion anxiety. In my opinion this is normal anxiety ‘amplified’. Mindfulness and Buddhist philosophy can reduce anxiety more and more with practice (lots of studies substantiate this).

    • Hi Fiachra
      Yes, mental health professionals have no problem making a living, or, as some people so aptly put it, making a killing.
      Schizophrenia is psychiatric jargon, and there is no reason for me to speculate or generalize about it. It is another one of those terms that psychiatrists find useful for billing purposes.
      Anxiety is often a problem of inexperience. When this is the case, actual experience can lessen anxiety.
      Some folks make the same claim of folly.

    • We were having some fun recently with a friend who “self-diagnosed” with schizophrenia – he had all the “negative symptoms” and only regretted not hearing voices. He’s absolutely normal, just going through a stressful period in his life (having a little child and a demanding job -> little time for sleep not mentioning any free time).
      Schizophrenia, depression, anxiety disorder – they are all caused by stress and trauma, only some people are predisposed to express the distress one way or the other.

  4. http://arstechnica.com/science/2014/07/men-would-rather-give-themselves-electric-shocks-than-sit-quietly/

    “In 11 studies, we found that participants typically did not enjoy spending 6 to 15 minutes in a room by themselves with nothing to do but think, that they enjoyed doing mundane external activities much more, and that many preferred to administer electric shocks to themselves instead of being left alone with their thoughts. Most people seem to prefer to be doing something rather than nothing, even if that something is negative.”

    • I find this study hilarious and interesting for many reasons. Meditation though is not the same as sitting in a room by yourself doing nothing. Personally, I don’t meditate because it drives me absolutely crazy (I’d be probably one of the people who’d bang their heads against the wall) but have other ways to enjoy solitude with the content of my head only.

  5. Elli Silly
    You’re right about this side of things. For me meditation is extremely boring and I get very little out of it at the time, but overall it makes a big difference on how I feel and how I see the world. This is why I continue to practice it.