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Transcendental Meditation as a supplementary treatment for depression: Dr Norman Rosenthal
by Global Good News staff writer
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16 October 2009
Eminent psychiatrist Dr Norman Rosenthal* recently discussed promising results using the Transcendental Meditation Programme in treating depression.
Dr Rosenthal's comments followed those of Dr Nancy Liebler, during a 9 October webinar on 'Overcoming Depression in a Recession through the Transcendental Meditation Program'.
Depression, Dr Rosenthal explained, involves both mood and many bodily changes, and problems with functioning that are both quite disabling, and quite common. An estimated 19 million people suffer from depression in the United States; it affects both work and one's personal life.
Depression exists in relative degrees of severity and in different forms. One form is Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD),* which can be treated with light. Dr Rosenthal pointed out that light was always there, but its beneficial influence for depression was not known. 'In the same way, Transcendental Meditation is there, but maybe we are not really thinking about what its applications can be in those who are depressed or suffering in other ways,' Dr Rosenthal said.
There are many established treatments and medications for depression, which work well in many cases. 'Unfortunately, all too often people do not have a complete response to medication, or have side effects that cause them to stop the medication,' Dr Rosenthal said. 'So I'm always looking for other ways to complement and supplement existing treatments.'
At his organization in Bethesda, Maryland, Dr Rosenthal ran a small study on Transcendental Meditation and bi-polar patients—11 subjects, with measurements taken before and after starting the practice. These were individuals on 'maintenance medications' that were not really working for them.
Dr Rosenthal presented slides of data from this study, which showed improved ability to function and decreased depression. The depression scores dropped significantly after eight weeks of Transcendental Meditation. There was very little change in the control group, who continued only with medication. 'What we are seeing here is a signal that even in a group of people who clearly have a biological illness, Transcendental Meditation may have some benefit as a supplementary treatment along with their conventional treatments,' he said.
Dr Rosenthal also mentioned the American University study of 200 college students, who were assessed before and after learning Transcendental Meditation. He commented that a certain level of depression can be seen even in a regular population; a significant decrease in these students' depression scores was seen with Transcendental Meditation.
'Maybe the anti-depression effect of Transcendental Meditation is not just for people with real diagnosed, biological depression—but maybe even for depressed people who have it to a lesser degree. Clearly this is a really interesting topic for us to explore further. It is the beginning of the story, which I hope will continue to yield fruit over time.'
* Dr Rosenthal served as a senior researcher at the US National Institute of Mental Health for 15 years, where he discovered ''Seasonal Affective Disorder'' (SAD). He is currently clinical professor of psychiatry at Georgetown University Medical School, is director of a research laboratory that conducts drug research for the pharmaceutical industry, and has a private practice in psychiatry in Bethesda, MD.
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