As I wrote the title of this post, “Meditation and Depression,” I found myself smiling at the concept that meditation could cause depression.

There’s no question that in the meditation groups I’ve participated in, meditation appeared to cause a depression in the ability to think critically (replaced with the certainty that the instructor or the teachings were right about everything, in spite of strong evidence to the contrary), depression in people’s ability to relate to others ("Honey, I'd love to chat, but I have to meditate") and in something you might call "aliveness" (“Slow down! Calm down!”).

But that's a sidetrack. What I saw today that amused me even more than the above are a couple of Science Daily articles. One of them is titled, "Depression Treatment: Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy as Effective as Anti-Depressant Medication, Study Suggests" and goes on to report about a study that suggests that meditation practice can have more powerful effects than antidepressants. Our operative word is "suggests," because the study did not do anything to show that it was the mindfulness meditation component that was the causal factor.

It reports that, "47% of the group following the MBCT course experienced a relapse [in depression] compared with 60% of those continuing their normal treatment, including anti-depressant drugs."

Sounds great, right?

Well, slow down a second.

To really know if it worked, you’d want to check to see if people who did a similar course of cognitive therapy without the mindfulness meditation aspect had comparable relapse rates or not. If people just doing the therapy had a significantly higher rate of relapse, then yes, something interesting could be happening when you add in the meditation. Since they didn’t look at that, though, it’s possible that meditation had no more effect on lower relapse rates than ancient Mayan rituals of human sacrifice had on assuring the Sun's return to the sky the next day.

But here’s where it gets funnier.

There on the same page with the meditation mindfulness study is the link for a similar post, "Psychotherapy Prevents Relapse of Depression in Many Women." This other study showed that when women went to a "monthly maintenance [session of] interpersonal psychotherapy (IPT)" only "26 percent, had a recurrence of depression."

That means IPT way out-performed meditation!

Personally, I’m not impressed by a technique requiring an hour a day that only offers a 13% reduction in relapse when, for just one therapy session each month, I can get that 23% reduction. But I’ve always been a bit of an efficiency geek.

So c’mon, people! (And when I say people, I mean reporters and doctors.) Creating a study that isn’t garbage is not rocket science! And it’s not difficult to look at crappy studies and smell the poo.

Author's Bio: 

Steven Sashen began meditation when he was eight years old, was one of the first biofeedback pioneers, and researched cognition and perception at Duke University. In addition to a successful career as an entrepreneur and entertainer, Steven has taught transformational techniques around the world and developed the Instant Advanced Meditation Course, which Dr. Gay Hendricks calls, "Perhaps the fastest and easiest way to relax, expand awareness, and find deep inner-peace."

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