The Bad News: Trauma Can Be Inherited. The Good News — So Can Resilience

Mindfulness and meditation can worsen depression and anxiety

Mindfulness and other types of meditation are usually seen as simple stress-relievers – but they can sometimes leave people worse off.

About one in 12 people who try meditation experience an unwanted negative effect, usually a worsening in depression or anxiety, or even the onset of these conditions for the first time, according to the first systematic review of the evidence. “For most people it works fine but it has undoubtedly been overhyped and it’s not universally benevolent,” says Miguel Farias at Coventry University in the UK, one of the researchers behind the work.

They found that about 8% people who try meditation experience an unwanted effect: people have experienced anything from an increase in anxiety up to panic attacks.

The figure of 8% may be an underestimate, as many studies of meditation record only serious negative effects or don’t record them at all.

Dr Miguel Farias, Coventry University

There are many types of meditation, but one of the most popular is mindfulness, in which people pay attention to the present moment, focusing on either their own thoughts and feelings or external sensations. It is recommended by several National Health Service bodies in the UK as a way of reducing depression relapses in people who have experienced the condition several times.

Enthusiasm for meditation may partly stem from a growing awareness of the side effects of antidepressant medicines and the difficulties some people report in stopping taking them. There have been some reports of people experiencing worse mental health after starting meditation but it is unclear how often this happens…

The Bad News: Trauma Can Be Inherited. The Good News — So Can Resilience

“If your grandfather had loving, nurturing parents, you get a genetic boost in the psychological and behavioral sense.” – Philip Perry

We tend to understand where our physical traits come from. We may have our mother’s eyes or our father’s chin. But when it comes to personality traits, we tend to think of them as our own. Psychologists go one step farther. They see things like anxiety or depression stemming from personal experiences which shaped us. Some studies however reach back even farther, are in fact passed down from parents or even grandparents.

Neurosis, anxiety, an adventuresome spirit, can these be inherited? That was the question on the minds of two researchers back in 1992. Then molecular biologist and geneticist Moshe Szyf and neurobiologist Michael Meaney, both of Montreal’s McGill University, met after a conference and had a few beers in a nearby bar. They started discussing inheritable traits, and Meaney theorized that certain emotional traits could be passed down through genes inside the brain. Szyf though skeptical was intrigued…

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