Depression in Children

New Johns Hopkins research center tests psychedelics to treat mental health

Depression in Children | Johns Hopkins Medicine

Johns Hopkins Medicine is launching a new psychedelic research center where scientists will test the potential of “magic mushrooms” and other drugs to treat some of the toughest mental health and addiction challenges.

The center is believed to be the first center in the United States and the largest in the world to focus on drugs still better known as symbols of 1960s counterculture than serious medicine.

The Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness Research at Johns Hopkins Medicine in Baltimore is being funded by a $17 million donation from a group of private donors. Because federal funding cannot be used for such research, the center needs private support.

The center’s research will focus on applications of the drugs for treating opioid addiction, Alzheimer’s disease, post-traumatic stress disorder, eating disorders and depression, among other diseases.

“Psychedelics are a fascinating class of compounds,” said Roland Griffiths, the center’s director and a professor of behavioral biology in the Hopkins School of Medicine.

“They produce unique and profound change in consciousness,” he said. “The center will allow us to expand on research to develop new treatments for a wide variety of psychiatric disorders. And it will allow us to extend on past research in healthy people to improve their sense of well being.”

“Johns Hopkins is deeply committed to exploring innovative treatments for our patients,” Paul B. Rothman, chief executive of Johns Hopkins Medicine and dean of the medical school’s faculty, said in a statement. “Our scientists have shown that psychedelics have real potential as medicine, and this new center will help us explore that potential.”

Psilocybin and MDMA are illegal drugs in the United States classified by the federal government along with heroin and cocaine. Laws relating to salvia vary by state, but it’s illegal in most states.

But researchers at Hopkins and elsewhere have said such drugs could help in areas of pain, addiction and brain disorders.

The center is being funded by the Steven & Alexandra Cohen Foundation and philanthropists who include Tim Ferriss, an author and technology investor; Matt Mullenweg, co-founder of WordPress; Blake Mycoskie, founder of the shoe company TOMS; and Craig Nerenberg, an investor.

Ferriss said his interest in the drugs is personal. There is depression and brain disease among family members, and a good friend died of a drug overdose. He said his contribution, between $2 million and $3 million, is the largest investment he has made in a corporate or nonprofit endeavor.

He said he was hoping to “affect the timeline” of federal regulatory approvals for psychedelic drugs, though he opposed over-the-counter uses.

“Good science takes time,” he said, adding that he wanted to support “unlocking the full potential of productive teams.”

The center will look at how psychedelics affect behavior, brain function, learning and memory, the brain’s biology and mood.

The Hopkins researchers said they understood the risks and dangers of using psychedelic drugs that they said were not addictive but could be abused. They said they could control for potential abuse or bad outcomes, such as long-term effects of the drug’s use on those with undiagnosed mental health disorders, in a laboratory setting where people and drugs are carefully screened.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse says there are many potential short- and long-term harms from hallucinogens. Users can see, hear and feel things that don’t exist, experiences that can be unpleasant, known as a “bad trip.”

Users can suffer increased heart rate and blood pressure, nausea, intensified feelings, loss of appetite, sleep problems, excessive sweating and panic, though others may have intense spiritual experiences and feelings of relaxation. Users also can be a danger if they drive.

Over time, according to the drug abuse institute, users can suffer persistent psychosis, visual disturbances, disorganized thinking, paranoia and mood changes, among other problems.

The institute said people can overdose on some hallucinogens, such as PCP, though serious medical emergencies are not common and not associated with drugs typically used in the research studies. Drugs also can be contaminated, and those trying to use psilocybin could consume poisonous mushrooms that look the ones containing the compound.

There are not currently any federally approved psychedelic drugs for medicinal purposes.

“The field is chock full of lessons, and we take them seriously,” said Matthew Johnson, an associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences in the medical school, who is the center’s assistant director. But he said the potential benefits could be enormous.

The rate of fatal opioid overdoses will probably make use of psilocybin more acceptable to the public, after a “war on drugs” in the 1970s and ’80s stymied all research into psychedelic substances for decades, said Sara Lappan, a visiting instructor in the counseling program at the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s department of human studies.

Lappan is working on a study using psilocybin to treat addiction to cocaine, a drug that has been making a comeback among users after years of declines. The Alabama study is among a handful around the country testing psilocybin for a variety of treatments.

That study aims to give people “the ability to change” because of how they view themselves. It’s giving them “10 years of therapy smashed into six hours,” she said.

Researchers, she said, hope eventually to use their scientific data to change the legal status of the drug, though she said she knew of no researcher who wants recreational use of psilocybin. And she agreed that the studies have shown promise because the participants and the substances are carefully screened.

At Hopkins, the funding is expected to support five years of research and a team of six faculty neuroscientists, experimental psychologists and clinicians.

“,”author”:”Baltimore Sun”,”date_published”:”2019-09-06T00:00:00.000Z”,”lead_image_url”:”″,”dek”:null,”next_page_url”:null,”url”:””,”domain”:””,”excerpt”:”Johns Hopkins Medicine is launching a new psychedelic research center where scientists will test the potential of “magic mushrooms” and other drugs to treat some of the toughest mental health and…”,”word_count”:913,”direction”:”ltr”,”total_pages”:1,”rendered_pages”:1}


Major Depression

Depression in Children | Johns Hopkins Medicine

Linkedin Pinterest Mental and Behavioral Health Mood Disorders

Depression is a serious mood disorder that affects your whole body including your mood and thoughts. It touches every part of your life. It’s important to know that depression is not a weakness or character flaw. It’s a chemical imbalance in your brain that needs to be treated.

If you have one episode of depression, you are at risk of having more throughout life. If you don’t get treatment, depression can happen more often and be more serious.

What causes depression?

Depression is caused by an imbalance of brain chemicals. Other factors also play a role. It also tends to run in families. Depression can be triggered by life events or certain illnesses. It can also develop without a clear trigger.

What are the symptoms of depression?

While each person may experience symptoms differently, these are the most common symptoms of depression:

  • Lasting sad, anxious, or “empty” mood
  • Loss of interest in almost all activities
  • Appetite and weight changes
  • Changes in sleep patterns, such as inability to sleep or sleeping too much
  • Slowing of physical activity, speech, and thinking OR agitation, increased restlessness, and irritability
  • Decreased energy, feeling tired or “slowed down” almost every day
  • Ongoing feelings of worthlessness and/or feelings of undue guilt
  • Trouble concentrating or making decisions
  • Repeating thoughts of death or suicide, wishing to die, or attempting suicide (Note: This needs emergency treatment)

If you have 5 or more of these symptoms for at least 2 weeks, you may be diagnosed with depression. These feelings are a noticeable change from what’s “normal” for you.

The symptoms of depression may look other mental health conditions. Always see a healthcare provider for a diagnosis.

How is depression diagnosed?

Depression can happen along with other medical conditions. These include heart disease, or cancer, as well as other mental health conditions. Early diagnosis and treatment is key to recovery.

A diagnosis is made after a careful mental health exam and medical history done. This is usually done by a mental health professional.

How is depression treated?

Treatment for depression may include one or a combination of the following:

  • Medicine. Antidepressants work by affecting the brain chemicals. Know that it takes 4 to 6 weeks for these medicines to have a full effect. Keep taking the medicine, even if it doesn’t seem to be working at first. Never stop taking your medicine without first talking to your healthcare provider. Some people have to switch medicines or add medicines to get results. Work closely with your healthcare provider to find treatment that works for you.
  • Therapy. This is most often cognitive behavioral and/or interpersonal therapy. It focuses on changing the distorted views you have of yourself and your situation. It also works to improve relationships, and identify and manage stressors in your life.
  • Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). This treatment may be used to treat severe, life-threatening depression that has not responded to medicines. A mild electrical current is passed through the brain. This triggers a brief seizure. For unknown reasons, the seizures help restore the normal balance of chemicals in the brain and ease symptoms.

With treatment, you should feel better within a few weeks. Without treatment, symptoms can last for weeks, months, or even years. Continued treatment may help to prevent depression from appearing again.

Depression can make you feel exhausted, worthless, helpless, and hopeless. It’s important to realize that these negative views are part of the depression and do not reflect reality. Negative thinking fades as treatment begins to take effect. Meanwhile, consider the following:

  • Get help. If you think you may be depressed, see a healthcare provider as soon as possible.
  • Set realistic goals in light of the depression and don’t take on too much.
  • Break large tasks into small ones. Set priorities, and do what you can as you can.
  • Try to be with other people and confide in someone. It’s usually better than being alone and secretive.
  • Do things that make you feel better. Going to a movie, gardening, or taking part in religious, social, or other activities may help. Doing something nice for someone else can also help you feel better.
  • Get regular exercise.
  • Expect your mood to get better slowly, not right away. Feeling better takes time.
  • Eat healthy, well-balanced meals.
  • Stay away from alcohol and drugs. These can make depression worse.
  • It is best to delay important decisions until the depression has lifted. Before deciding to make a big change –change jobs, get married or divorced — discuss it with others who know you well and have a more objective view of your situation.
  • Remember: People don’t “snap ” a depression. But they can feel a little better day-by-day.
  • Try to be patient and focus on the positives. This may help replace the negative thinking that is part of the depression. The negative thoughts will fade as your depression responds to treatment.
  • Let your family and friends help you.

When to call your healthcare provider

If you have 5 or more of these symptoms for at least 2 weeks, call your healthcare provider:

  • Lasting sad, anxious, or “empty” mood
  • Loss of interest in almost all activities
  • Appetite and weight changes
  • Changes in sleep patterns, such as inability to sleep or sleeping too much
  • Slowing of physical activity, speech, and thinking OR agitation, increased restlessness, and irritability
  • Decreased energy, feeling tired or “slowed down” almost every day
  • Ongoing feelings of worthlessness and/or feelings of undue guilt
  • Trouble concentrating or making decisions
  • Repeating thoughts of death or suicide, wishing to die, or attempting suicide (Note: This needs emergency treatment )

Key points about depression

  • Depression is a serious mood disorder that affects your whole body including your mood and thoughts.
  • It’s caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain. Some types of depression seem to run in families.
  • Depression causes ongoing, extreme feelings of sadness, helplessness, hopeless, and irritability. These feelings are usually a noticeable change from what’s “normal” for you, and they last for more than two weeks.
  • Depression may be diagnosed after a careful psychiatric exam and medical history done by a mental health professional.
  • Depression is most often treated with medicine or therapy, or a combination of both.

Get the help you or a loved one needs, and get the latest expert insights on coping and preventing this mood disorder.

Depression and insomnia often go hand in hand. Know the connection between the two, and learn how to recognize symptoms and get treatment for both.


Psilocybin research at Johns Hopkins

Depression in Children | Johns Hopkins Medicine

Psychiatry Grand Rounds started on Monday, Oct. 7, 2019, as they do every Monday at Johns Hopkins, with the department chair interviewing a patient.

The patient told James Potash, MD, that he had suffered with depression for many years and that medications were only a partial fix.

His participation in a psilocybin trial at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore was different, and 3 months after the second, and final, treatment, he felt remarkably better. The treatment had quieted the self-deprecating script that had looped through his thoughts for years.

“It was nothing what I was expecting,” the patient said. “I didn’t feel control. And now I’m not fighting with myself all day.”

Grand Rounds at Hopkins are different from those at other institutions in that the rounds are given by departments’ full-time faculty members; psychiatrists from other institutions are invited to come speak at other times during the week.

But Grand Rounds are reserved for the faculty to present their own research. The patient interview was followed by a lecture by Roland Griffiths, PhD, on “Psilocybin: A potentially promising treatment for depression.” Dr.

Griffiths has been studying the effects of psychedelic drugs for the past 40 years; he’s been at Hopkins since 1972. The Grand Rounds presentation came just weeks after it was announced that Dr.

Griffiths would be heading the Johns Hopkins Center for Psychedelic & Consciousness Research, funded with $17 million in private donations.

Dr. Griffiths began by talking about the history of psychedelic drug research and the fact that research had been dormant for several decades. “There was – and still is – concern about potential adverse reactions, including panic reactions and the possibility of precipitating psychosis,” he said.

Originally, he conducted several studies in healthy volunteers with no history of psychedelic use. Participants had one or more day-long sessions with staff members who would then serve as monitors when psilocybin was administered; these preliminary meetings were designed to build trust and rapport with the team and to decrease the risk of adverse reactions.

On session days when psilocybin was administered, participants were told to eat a low-fat breakfast and then were given a high dose of psilocybin in a capsule. The next 6 hours were spent with the volunteer lying on a couch with an eye mask, headphones with soft music, and two monitors in the room. “The room is decorated a living room.

We created a container for people to explore their inner experience.”

Dr. Griffiths talked about the experiences people reported.

“There were large increases in personally meaningful and insight-type experiences. People reported a sense of unity and interconnectedness of all things, accompanied by a sense of preciousness or reverence, and by the sense that …

the experience was more real or true than everyday waking consciousness.

Although the acute effects of psilocybin resolved by the end of the session day, the memories remain and people reported enduring changes in mood, attitude, and behavior.”

The data were remarkable.

One month after these high-dose psilocybin sessions, 78% of the volunteers rated the experience as among the top five most personally meaningful experiences of their lives, 94% said they had an increased sense of well-being with improved life satisfaction, and nearly 90% endorsed positive behavior change.

Six months after the last session, participants still endorsed having more positive relationships, feeling more love, tolerance, empathy and compassion, friends, family members, and others. Family members and work colleagues who were interviewed noted these positive changes as well.

At this point in Grand Rounds, I was ready to volunteer. My best estimate (tongue in cheek, with no corroboration) is that about half of the audience was waiting on free psilocybin samples, while the other half was remembering Timothy Leary, PhD, bad trips, and psychosis. “We’ve been down this road before,” the gentleman next to me commented.

Dr. Griffiths went on to talk about trials of psilocybin in clinical populations. In one study, the effects of psilocybin were examined in cancer patients with depression and anxiety.

Of the 51 cancer patients, half previously had been treated with psychotropic medications before coming to the study.

This randomized, double-blind crossover study compared high-dose psilocybin with an extremely low dose of psilocybin used as the placebo.

Another study looked at patients with major depression who, the patient interviewed, had not had full resolution of symptoms with conventional antidepressants. Of the 24 participants in that group, 69% reported clinically significant improvement 12 weeks after the treatment. Just over half of participants reported a full remission to normal.

Dr. Griffiths ended by concluding that the positive experiences people have with psilocybin are associated with “enduring positive trait changes in attitudes, mood and behavior, spirituality, and altruism … and that such experiences are now amenable to systematic prospective scientific study.”

J. Raymond DePaulo, MD, chair of the National Network of Depression Centers and former chair of psychiatry at Johns Hopkins, noted that he used to be skeptical. He has been impressed that Dr.

Griffiths has listened to criticism and addressed concerns others have raised.

“When it was suggested that this was the result of delirium, he started giving people cognitive tests while they were using psilocybin and he showed it wasn’t the case.”

“I have always objected to words ‘psychedelic’ and ‘hallucinogen,’ ” said Dr. DePaulo. “They are confusing and inaccurate. No one takes these medications because they want to hallucinate. They take them to change their mood. That said, I am thrilled that we are on the precipice of being able to use this to treat depression.”

Since 1999, the Johns Hopkins Psilocybin Research Project has conducted more than 700 sessions with 369 participants.

When might psilocybin be available to patients outside of a research protocol? Two companies have obtained approval from the Food and Drug Administration to initiate registration in trials for treatment of depression. Dr.

Griffiths estimates that it could be another 5 years before psilocybin will be available for medical use.

The new center with its generous funding will allow for more studies with more patient populations. The center’s projects will look at using psilocybin as a treatment for opioid use disorder, comorbid depression and alcohol use disorder, anorexia nervosa, depression in Alzheimer’s disease, posttreatment Lyme disease syndrome, and PTSD.

Scott Aaronson, MD, is a mood disorder expert and director of clinical research at the Sheppard Pratt Health System in Towson/Baltimore. Dr.

Aaronson, who also studies psilocybin as a treatment for depression, noted: “The problem with the development of psychedelics is that we are not really prepared to capture the improvement we see with their use, as the main changes are not in the classic markers of depression the Montgomery-Åsberg or the Hamilton Depression rating scales, but [rather] in the patient’s perception of who they are, how they fit in with the world, and what is most important. We need to develop ways to capture those critical changes and work with the FDA to develop an entirely new vision of what constitutes improvement in psychiatric illness. My overall take is that it is a terrific time to specialize in treatment-resistant mood disorders!”

Dr. Miller is coauthor of “Committed: The Battle Over Involuntary Psychiatric Care” (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University, 2016). She has a private practice and is assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Johns Hopkins, both in Baltimore.


Anxiety, Depression and Other Mood Disorders | Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center

Depression in Children | Johns Hopkins Medicine

Are you over 60 and feeling depressed? Symptoms of depression in older adults are common yet often go undetected. They could include feelings of sadness or hopelessness, loss of energy, inability to enjoy pleasurable activities, changes in appetite or sleeping patterns, or poor concentration/memory.

If you are feeling depressed, not taking antidepressant medication and in good physical health you may be eligible to participate in a research study involving treatment. Qualified people will participate at no cost to them and will be compensated for their time and transportation.

For more information about the research study, please call 410-550-4192.

PI: Gwenn Smith, Ph.D.

2. Child Gaining Weight on Medication?

Mark Riddle, M.D., and colleagues in the Johns Hopkins Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry are conducting a treatment research study funded by the National Institute of Mental Health. The goal of the study is to find improved treatments for youth who have a have gained weight while taking antipsychotic medication.

We are currently seeking children ages 8-19 who are taking olanzapine (Zyprexa®), quetiapine (Seroquel®), risperidone (Risperdal®), aripiprazole (Abilify®), or ziprasidone (Geodone®) and have gained a significant amount of weight in the past year while taking one of these medications.

Consenting children who meet eligibility criteria will receive a medical and psychiatric evaluation and will be assigned to one of three groups: 1) stay on current medication, 2) switch from current medication to aripiprazole (Abilify®) or perphenazine (Trilafon®), 3) stay on current medication and add metformin (Glucophage®).

Participants receive study-related evaluations and treatment at no cost.

For further information, call 410-614-5174.

PI: Mark Riddle, M.D.

3. Childhood Depression and Anxiety

Childhood depression and anxiety greatly impact the lives of sufferers, taking away their ability to enjoy their childhood and making them a ghost or shadow of their former selves. We want to change this.

We’re conducting ADVANCE – a clinical research study looking at how an investigational treatment called Lu AA21004 is processed in the body over time in children aged 7 to 17 years (inclusively) with depression or anxiety.

Study-related treatments and procedures will be provided at no cost to you.

To find out more or to see if your child qualifies, please contact the study coordinator at 443-923-3850.

PI: Robert L. Findling, M.D., MBA

4. Sprites: Sertraline Pediatric Registry for the Evaluation of Safety

Kennedy Krieger Institute is looking for children, ages 6 through 14 years (inclusive), who have been prescribed sertraline within the last 30 days, or have initiated psychosocial rather than pharmacological treatment within the last 30 days.

This research study is being conducted by centers across the country to add meaningful information on the safety of long-term sertraline use in pediatric subjects.

The research study involves visits which will consist of cognition, emotional and physical development, and pubertal maturation assessments. There are no direct medical benefits for participating in this research study.

The research study will require a screening visit that could last up to two hours, as well as visits at 12 weeks, six months and every six months thereafter for three years (each lasting approximately 30 minutes).

For each completed visit, you will be reimbursed up to $25 for your expenses related to your child’s participation to cover your parking, gas and time, OR your child will receive a $10 iTunes® card (or equivalent) to compensate them for their time.

For more information about this study, please contact the study coordinator at 443-923-7619.

PI: Robert L. Findling, M.D., MBA

5. Is Your Teen Too Often Angry or Irritable?

We are conducting a research study at Johns Hopkins that evaluates the effectiveness of a specific psychotherapy for adolescents, between the ages of 12 and 17, who have chronic anger and irritability, disproportionate emotional reactions (rages, outbursts), and may have other associated symptoms (problems with sleep or concentration, restlessness, talkativeness). Because of the mood symptoms, these youth may have difficulties with relationships. The goal of the study is to improve mood and relationships through interpersonal psychotherapy.

Participating teens will receive a free comprehensive evaluation and may earn up to $135 in gift cards. Parents may earn up to $135 for participation.

For more information or to enroll, please call 410-550-9014.

PI: Leslie Miller, M.D.



Depression in Children | Johns Hopkins Medicine

Linkedin Pinterest Mood Disorders

Depression is a whole-body illness. It involves the body, mood, and thoughts. Depression affects the way you eat and sleep. It also can affect the way you feel about yourself and things.

It is not the same as being unhappy or in a “blue” mood. It is not a sign of personal weakness or a condition that can be willed or wished away. When you have depression, you can’t “pull yourself together” and get better.

Treatment is often needed and many times crucial to recovery.

Depression has different forms, just many other illnesses. Three of the most common types of depressive disorders include:

  • Major depression. This is a mixture of symptoms that affect your ability to work, sleep, eat, and enjoy life. This can put you action for awhile. These episodes of depression can happen once, twice, or several times in a lifetime.
  • Dysthymia. This is a long-term, ongoing depressed mood and other symptoms that are not as severe or extensive as those in major depression. These symptoms can still keep you from functioning at “full steam” or from feeling good. Sometimes, people with dysthymia also experience major depressive episodes.
  • Bipolar disorder. A chronic, recurring condition that includes cycles of extreme lows (or depression) and extreme highs (called hypomania or mania).

Depression and insomnia often go hand in hand. Know the connection between the two, and learn how to recognize symptoms and get treatment for both.

There is no clear cause of depression. Experts think it happens because of chemical imbalances in the brain. Many factors can play a role in depression, including environmental, psychological, biological, and genetic factors.

Some types of depression seem to run in families. However, no genes have yet been linked to depression.

Women have depression about twice as often as men. Many hormonal factors may add to the increased rate of depression in women.

This includes menstrual cycle changes, premenstrual syndrome (PMS), pregnancy, miscarriage, postpartum period, perimenopause, and menopause.

Many women also deal with additional stresses such as responsibilities both at work and home, single parenthood, and caring for both children and aging parents.

Many women are especially at risk after giving birth to a baby. Women experience hormonal and physical changes on top of the added responsibility of caring for a baby. These can be factors that lead to postpartum depression in some women. While the “baby blues” are common in new mothers (lasting a week or two), a full-blown depressive episode is not normal and treatment is needed.

Key points

  • Depression is a whole-body illness. This means that it involves the body, mood, and thoughts. It is not the same as being unhappy or in a “blue” mood. Treatment is often needed and many times crucial to recovery.
  • There is no clear cause of depression, but doctors think it’s a result of chemical imbalances in the brain. Some types of depression seem to run in families, but no genes have yet been linked to depression.
  • Women experience depression about twice as often as men. Many hormonal factors may play a role in the increased rate of depression in women. These factors may include menstrual cycle changes, premenstrual syndrome (PMS), pregnancy, miscarriage, postpartum period, perimenopause, and menopause.
  • In general, nearly everyone suffering from depression has ongoing feelings of sadness. They may feel helpless, hopeless, and irritable. Without treatment, symptoms can last for weeks, months, or years.
  • Depression may be diagnosed after a careful psychiatric exam. A medical history will be done by a psychiatrist or other mental health professional.
  • Depression is most often treated with medication, psychotherapy, or cognitive behavioral therapy. It can also be a combination of medication and therapy.

Next steps

Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your health care provider:

  • Before your visit, write down questions you want answered.
  • Bring someone with you to help you ask questions and remember what your provider tells you.
  • At the visit, write down the names of new medicines, treatments, or tests, and any new instructions your provider gives you.
  • If you have a follow-up appointment, write down the date, time, and purpose for that visit.
  • Know how you can contact your provider if you have questions.


Meditation for anxiety, depression?

Depression in Children | Johns Hopkins Medicine

Some 30 minutes of meditation daily may improve symptoms of anxiety and depression, a new Johns Hopkins analysis of previously published research suggests.

“A lot of people use meditation, but it's not a practice considered part of mainstream medical therapy for anything,” says Madhav Goyal, M.D., M.P.H.

, an assistant professor in the Division of General Internal Medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and leader of a study published online Jan. 6 in JAMA Internal Medicine.

“But in our study, meditation appeared to provide as much relief from some anxiety and depression symptoms as what other studies have found from antidepressants.” These patients did not typically have full-blown anxiety or depression.

The researchers evaluated the degree to which those symptoms changed in people who had a variety of medical conditions, such as insomnia or fibromyalgia, although only a minority had been diagnosed with a mental illness.

Goyal and his colleagues found that so-called “mindfulness meditation” — a form of Buddhist self-awareness designed to focus precise, nonjudgmental attention to the moment at hand — also showed promise in alleviating some pain symptoms as well as stress. The findings held even as the researchers controlled for the possibility of the placebo effect, in which subjects in a study feel better even if they receive no active treatment because they perceive they are getting help for what ails them.

To conduct their review, the investigators focused on 47 clinical trials performed through June 2013 among 3,515 participants that involved meditation and various mental and physical health issues, including depression, anxiety, stress, insomnia, substance use, diabetes, heart disease, cancer and chronic pain.

They found moderate evidence of improvement in symptoms of anxiety, depression and pain after participants underwent what was typically an eight-week training program in mindfulness meditation. They discovered low evidence of improvement in stress and quality of life. There was not enough information to determine whether other areas could be improved by meditation.

In the studies that followed participants for six months, the improvements typically continued.

They also found no harm came from meditation.

Meditation, Goyal notes, has a long history in Eastern traditions, and it has been growing in popularity over the last 30 years in Western culture.

“A lot of people have this idea that meditation means sitting down and doing nothing,” Goyal says. “But that's not true. Meditation is an active training of the mind to increase awareness, and different meditation programs approach this in different ways.”

Mindfulness meditation, the type that showed the most promise, is typically practiced for 30 to 40 minutes a day. It emphasizes acceptance of feelings and thoughts without judgment and relaxation of body and mind.

He cautions that the literature reviewed in the study contained potential weaknesses. Further studies are needed to clarify which outcomes are most affected by these meditation programs, as well as whether more meditation practice would have greater effects.

“Meditation programs appear to have an effect above and beyond the placebo,” Goyal says.

Story Source:

Materials provided by Johns Hopkins Medicine. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.