By: Kassandra Dzikewicz
Anxiety disorder is found in one in four teens between the ages of 13 and 18. In a lot of cases, the immediate response to dealing with the anxiety is to resort to medication. However, recent studies show that there are more options than resorting to a bottle of pills. A study done by researchers at the University of Cincinnati, shows the positive effects mindfulness meditation has on youth with mental illnesses, particularly those with anxiety disorders. Mindfulness is the practice of meditation, and learning to create awareness of one’s surroundings, allowing one to become unconditionally present.
The study published in the Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychopharmacology consisted of nine youths ranging from the age of 9 to 16 who all have diagnosed anxiety disorders. Over 12 weeks, the participants practiced mindfulness-based cognitive therapy. As they practiced mindfulness they underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to monitor and examine the effect the practice had on the participants on a neurological level.
Sian Cotton, the co- author of the study saw that the anxiety of the participants reduced quickly after they began the study. It was also found that the more the participants practiced mindfulness, the less anxiety they experienced. This study is a huge development in the treatment of anxiety and mental illness in youth, as it allows an alternative to medication. “These integrative approaches expand traditional treatments and offer new strategies for coping with psychological distress,” says Cotton.
Jeffrey Strawn, MD, associate professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Neuroscience, director of the Anxiety Disorders Research Program and co-principal investigator on the study describes the outcome of the study: “Our preliminary observation that the mindfulness therapy increases activity in the part of the brain known as the cingulate, which processes cognitive and emotional information, is noteworthy.” Strawn also explains how this new study proves that practicing mindfulness with other forms of treatment will improve emotional processing in youth with anxiety and other mental illnesses.
The practice of mindfulness such as yoga or meditation is a lot more accessible than medication or therapy, and this new information could positively impact the lives of many young teens and children struggling with mental illness.