Number of Depressive Episodes Linked to Mindfulness Outcomes

Symptoms of depression may include negative affect, cognitive disturbances, rumination, and worry. In the study on major depression (MDD), mindfulness based cognitive therapy (MBCT) has been shown to be highly effective at reducing symptoms. This approach helps individuals develop an acceptance of their thoughts in a nonjudgmental way by taking a nonpersonal view. Rather than looking at thoughts subjectively, MBCT teaches individuals how to be objective in their appraisal of emotions. Doing so can decrease rumination and further positive affect.

Although the research on MDD and mindfulness is quite vast, the mechanisms affected through MBCT in the reduction of depressive symptoms is still somewhat unclear. Therefore, Tim Batink of the Department of Psychiatry and Psychology at the Maastricht University Medical Centre in the Netherlands wanted to explore how cognitive and affective processes worked to mediate or moderate MBCT for MDD.

Using a sample of 130 participants with residual, but not clinical symptoms of MDD, Batink looked at how rumination, affect, worry, and mindfulness skills worked together to influence the effects of MBCT. He found that overall, affect had a significant effect MBCT outcomes and also on depressive symptoms and worry. Interestingly, Batnik also noticed a difference in how these processes interacted when he compared participants with a history of fewer than two MDD episodes to those with three or more prior episodes.

For the participants with fewer than two episodes, cognitive changes had more impact on MBCT outcomes and changes in symptoms than affective changes. However, in the group with more than three prior episodes, affect changes had the greatest impact on symptom reduction via MBCT. These findings are novel and demonstrate unique mediators at work in individuals with differing MDD histories.

Batnik believes that these independent processes, cognitive and affective, may play unique roles in the course of symptoms and also risk for future episodes. He added, “Further research is necessary to confirm these hypotheses and examine underlying mechanisms for different populations and for individuals at different stages of the illness.”

Reference:
Batink, T., Peeters, F., Geschwind, N., Van Os, J., Wichers, M. (2013). How does MBCT for depression work? Studying cognitive and affective meditaion pathways. PLoS ONE 8(8): e72778. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0072778

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  • Rex

    Rex

    September 26th, 2013 at 12:10 PM

    THE CRITICAL ELEMENT HERE IS THAT YOU ARE TEACHING SOMEONE TO BE LOVING AND NOJUDGEMENTAL TOWARD THEMSELVES.
    TOO OFTEN I FIND THAT WE ARE SO HYPERCRITICAL OF OURSELVES THAT WE HONESTLY JUST BEAT OURSELVES DOWN, AND WHAT GOOD DOES THAT VIEWPOINT DO WHEN WE ARE TRYING TO HEAL FROM DEPRESSION?
    bUT WHEN YOU TEACH SOMEONE TO LOOK AT IT OBJECTIVELY AND TO SAY HEY, YOU KNOW WHAT, THIS IS A PART OF WHO I AM, I AM GOING TO LEARN TO ACCEPT THIS ABOUT ME AND MOVE ON FROM HERE, IT IS WITH THAT SORT OF AWARENESS AND ACCEPTANCE THAT YOU CAN THEN FIND PEACE AND HEALING.

  • Sarah

    Sarah

    October 1st, 2013 at 12:24 PM

    Dear Rex, Only telling you this because I don’t think any one else has, not meant to be mean.
    Typing in all caps is considered “shouting”. It is typical of a person who is angry and thinks they
    are making their point by typing it in caps., or YELLING it. Most people don’t even read a post
    all in caps., most blogs don’t except them…..
    I’m sure that’s not how you mean to come across.

  • Georgia

    Georgia

    September 27th, 2013 at 3:52 AM

    Great reminder that all depression is not created equal, and therefore cannot be treated the same all the time

  • Frances

    Frances

    September 29th, 2013 at 9:00 AM

    Just reccognizing that there are differing forces at hand in different individuals is such a HUGE step forward when it comes to working with and treating individuals with depression and mental illness.
    Fabulous to know that we aren’t being lazy in this fight, that there are those who continue to fight for a cure and a greater understanding, as well as a search for a way to make life more tenable for the thousands who live with this daily.

  • Janet Singer (ocdtalk)

    Janet Singer (ocdtalk)

    October 14th, 2013 at 7:03 AM

    It’s great to read about how MCBT is beneficial to various people who are suffering. I’m always happy to see more and more of this type of research, as opposed to pushing meds with some heavy-duty side effects.

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