Adding Mindfulness To Therapy May Be A Real Alternative To Antidepressants For Teens

Adding Mindfulness To Therapy May Be A Real Alternative To Antidepressants For Teens


Zen stones in water

Meds can be both convenient and extremely helpful to teens with anxiety. But, for teens at risk for developing bipolar disorder, antidepressants are typically avoided because they can trigger elevated moods like hypomania and mania. Current research suggests that teens and families looking for additional therapeutic options should consider mindfulness-based therapies for anxiety.

Neuroscientists are still learning about the effects of psychotherapy on brain activity, but exciting advances are definitely on the horizon. A recent study published in the Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychopharmacology, looked at brain imaging in teens before and after mindfulness based therapy and saw changes in brain regions that control emotional processing. In a small group of youth identified with anxiety disorders and who have a parent with bipolar disorder, researchers evaluated the neurophysiology of mindfulness. Participants were monitored by functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) while performing continuous tasks with emotional and neutral distractors prior to and following 12 weeks of mindfulness-based cognitive therapy.

Mindfulness-based therapeutic interventions helped teens use meditative practices to increase present-moment awareness of conscious thoughts, feelings and body sensations and to manage negative experiences more effectively. Anxiety was significantly reduced following treatment and mindfulness therapy was found to increase activity in the part of the brain known as the cingulate, which processes cognitive and emotional information.

This study, taken together with previous research, raises the possibility that increases in brain activity from mindfulness-based emotional processing may improve emotional processing in anxious youth who are at risk for developing bipolar disorder. Integrating mindfulness approaches can expand traditional treatments and offer new strategies for teens coping with psychological distress.

Authored by:                                                                                                                   Kiara Moore, LCSW


Article cited: Jeffrey R. Strawn, Sian Cotton, Christina M. Luberto, L. Rodrigo Patino, Lauren A. Stahl, Wade A. Weber, James C. Eliassen, Richard Sears, Melissa P. DelBello. (2016). Neural Function Before and After Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy in Anxious Adolescents at Risk for Developing Bipolar Disorder. Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychopharmacology, 26 (4): 372.