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How Meditation Can Help People Struggling with Schizophrenia

August 22, 2018 in Blogs

By The Conversation

There is a great need to develop more alternatives and add-on therapies to pharmacological treatment.

“I felt a sense of dissolving, disappearing completely.” “My body and mind melted and merged with the universe.” “I ceased to exist.” These are excerpts of what I occasionally hear from the students who come to my yoga and meditation classes.

For most, these “mind-expanding” experiences are very positive and this is precisely what my students are seeking. However, there are always a few who have a difficult time with “ceasing to exist.”

Most traditional contemplative practices encourage careful examination of our concept of self and reality. This can induce feelings of boundlessness, non-separation, fusing with the universe, a deconstructed self, timelessness, emptiness or the void. This can be an insightful and blissful experience, but it can also be frightening if we are not prepared.

Given that meditation can sometimes produce such profound effects, is it a good idea to promote it in people with an already fragmented perception of self, or with hallucinations or delusions? As a clinical neuroscientist, I believe it is.

Research shows that some mindfulness-based interventions for psychotic symptoms can afford people a greater acceptance and insight into their experiences. They can also reduce the symptoms of anxiety and depression which often accompany, and may exacerbate, psychotic disorders.

My dream is that one day all psychiatric hospitals and mental health facilities will offer a range of alternatives for people with mental health problems — including meditation, yoga, dance, art, music and massage therapy.

Acute psychotic episodes

Schizophrenia is one of the most complex and least understood psychiatric disorders. Indeed, some researchers and clinicians question its usefulness as a clinical construct.

Schizophrenia may lead to progressive decline in cognitive, emotional and social domains. However, some individuals diagnosed with the disorder have good insight into their condition and are able to hold down a job and have families, friends and normal life satisfaction.

The course of the illness is typically characterized by acute psychotic episodes, with hallucinations and delusions intensifying for days or weeks. These episodes are interspersed with longer periods of relative stability with or without <a target=_blank …read more


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