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Research Suggests Mindfulness Reduces Bipolar Relapse

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.

Those who struggle with Bipolar Disorder understand that there are high rates of relapse and that symptoms often come with others such as heightened anxiety. There is exciting research that has found that a structured application of mindfulness has shown help with relapse into depressive and anxious episodes.

Williams, et al. (2008) randomly divided people with bipolar disorder in remission into two groups. One group received Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) and the other was a waitlist group. The results showed that those who received MBCT showed reduction in symptoms of anxiety and depression.

Why is this important for people who have bipolar disorder?

Often times what tips someone into an episode of depression, hypomania, or mania is often some precursor of anxiety or initial symptoms of depression. So if these can be balanced when someone is in remission, the idea is that it can reduce the propensity to actually be tipped into hypomania/mania or depression.

Now, this is initial research, it was done with a small group, but it is absolutely encourage and suggestive that becoming more present to our daily lives and having real practices to ground our minds when they are revving in an upward or downward spiral can be enormously helpful.

In addition, these practices cultivate attitudes of kindness, non-judgment, compassion, and letting things be. These are all attitudes that lead to greater self-acceptance and self-love which couldn't hurt when most of us spend so much time judging and being harsh with ourselves.