Can Mindfulness Make Your Depression/Anxiety Worse?

On the cultivation of insight/wisdom
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Akashad
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Can Mindfulness Make Your Depression/Anxiety Worse?

Post by Akashad »

I saw this pop up on my computer,its fairly recent a week old.I saw it being discussed on other buddhist forums.Im not sure which study they are referring to but they are saying that mindfulness meditation can worsen anxiety and depression symptoms.However I find it interesting because it's only 1 in 12 people which means the 11 other people did not experience it.I guess its trying to say mindfulness is not for everyone.

I personally have had this experience where i was dealing with anxiety and depression in the past and when I tried mindfulness it was probably the worse feeling in the world I stopped immediately.it was really joyless and dry and not appropriate at all I thought for this situation.

I understand there are benefits in mindfulness practice during meditation such as putting a bit of space between you and your experiences but i dont think in severe or moderate anxiety/depression it would be the right tool.

I think it only work on people with mild anxiety and depression because when your feeling really down and horrible to have it magnified even more is probably not the right way to go about it.

I am interested in knowing what your thoughts are and if you've had a negative/adverse experience with mindfulness meditation which made your depression/anxiety worse?

https://www.newscientist.com/article/2 ... xiety/

https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&sourc ... ampcf=1
dharmacorps
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Re: Can Mindfulness Make Your Depression/Anxiety Worse?

Post by dharmacorps »

Meditation is not possible for everyone. In some people especially with severe trauma or mental illnesses (like schizophrenia), it is not advisable (but it is still possible to practice the dhamma in other ways) The only problem comes in when pop-psychology treats meditation as a universal panacea for everything. It is also worth reviewing that pop-psychology's view towards mindfulness and meditation does differ from the approach the Buddha taught. The Buddha taught meditation as a part of a system of training which included other things which western society does not accept (8 fold path).
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SDC
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Re: Can Mindfulness Make Your Depression/Anxiety Worse?

Post by SDC »

If a person has faith in what the suttas say, there can be much anxiety. Just read up on how easily one could end up in the hells for aeons, and how rare it is to acquire a human birth, and even more rare to acquire a human birth where the Dhamma is known in the world. Think about how often the Buddha says, "...leads to their suffering for a long time," or, "...leads to my own affliction." This can be troubling as it gets more clear.

Both dread and shame, however, are considered a powers when understood "rightly":
AN 5.2 wrote:And what is the power of moral shame? Here, a noble disciple has a sense of moral shame; he is ashamed of bodily, verbal, and mental misconduct; he is ashamed of acquiring evil, unwholesome qualities. This is called the power of moral shame.

And what is the power of moral dread? Here, a noble disciple dreads wrongdoing; he dreads bodily, verbal, and mental misconduct; he dreads acquiring evil, unwholesome qualities. This is called the power of moral dread.
I think worsening anxiety can be a problem for even the most "mentally stable" practitioner. However, those who were already very susceptible and averse to the various manifestations of this dread and shame are far more likely to be overwhelmed by it.

Yet beyond these powers, there can also be a sense of urgency, which can carry one through the suffering associated with that knowledge towards the peace and liberation (of that same knowledge):
Iti 37 wrote:This was said by the Lord…

“Bhikkhus, possessing two things a bhikkhu lives here and now with much pleasure and happiness and is properly motivated for the destruction of the taints. What are the two things? Being moved by a sense of urgency on occasions for urgency, and, being moved, making a proper endeavour. These, bhikkhus, are the two things…”

A wise person should be urgently moved
On occasions that make for urgency;
As an ardent discerning bhikkhu
He should investigate with wisdom.

One living ardent thus,
Of peaceful conduct, not proud,
Practising tranquillity of mind,
May attain the destruction of suffering.
"Remembering the meditators of old, and recollecting their conduct, even in the latter days, it’s still possible to realize the deathless." -Thag 16.10
...
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samseva
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Re: Can Mindfulness Make Your Depression/Anxiety Worse?

Post by samseva »

Akashad, maybe you are focussing on the anxiety and depression, which then intensifies it.

Try instead to be mindful of your body, your breath, your walking, bodily posture—and even your surroundings, sounds and so on. And also, especially the activity you are doing itself.
nn100
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Re: Can Mindfulness Make Your Depression/Anxiety Worse?

Post by nn100 »

I am in my mid-thirties and have struggled with severe depression and suicidal thoughts for the majority of my life, since at least age 12-13. While I still struggle with it on occasion, it was only after learning about Buddhism and trying meditation around 5 years ago that I began to feel, for the first time in my life, that my mental state was something that was under my control and that I wasn't doomed to be miserable due to some trick of brain chemistry. I have been on a variety of antidepressant drugs, spent years in therapy, and none of it came close to making me feel as optimistic about the future of my mental health as I did after the first time I sat down to try meditating.

I definitely struggle to maintain a regular meditation practice, but I'm beginning to suspect the root cause is that meditation is so helpful and so effective that I'm scared that someday it will stop "working" and I'll be back where I was before, with no hope of ever being happy, so I want to save it as a final resort for when I become severely depressed. This is silly, I know, and I'm working to fix it, but the point is that meditation has never made me feel like it was making my depression worse in any way whatsoever, and in fact has been so beneficial that I instinctively want to hide it away as a last resort secret weapon.

That said, depression tends to come and go in waves, and I can absolutely see how someone in the midst of a strong wave of depression and attempting to meditate for the first time would have a very bad time. After a few years of meditation practice, I can sit and meditate during those waves, and make an effort to detach myself from them and view them objectively, but it's absolutely a struggle and something that I doubt I'd be able to do if I didn't have decades of dealing with them via sheer willpower as practice. I remember reading advice in some Dhamma book which I can't recall the name of that the practice of sitting with and examining strong negative emotions is something that can be very effective but is also very difficult and not something you should try if you don't have a solid practice. I've never experienced any negative emotion that was as intensely painful and unpleasant as the worst of my depression, so I can absolutely vouch for this advice when it comes to meditating while depressed. If you're new to meditation, then save it for the times when you're feeling better and build it up to the point that it can be a refuge for the times when you're feeling the worst. If you don't have some solid experience, don't expect things to go well if you just dive right in while you're feeling miserable.
tamdrin
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Re: Can Mindfulness Make Your Depression/Anxiety Worse?

Post by tamdrin »

dharmacorps wrote: Sun Aug 16, 2020 7:08 pm Meditation is not possible for everyone. In some people especially with severe trauma or mental illnesses (like schizophrenia), it is not advisable (but it is still possible to practice the dhamma in other ways) The only problem comes in when pop-psychology treats meditation as a universal panacea for everything. It is also worth reviewing that pop-psychology's view towards mindfulness and meditation does differ from the approach the Buddha taught. The Buddha taught meditation as a part of a system of training which included other things which western society does not accept (8 fold path).
I have SZ but still practice full on, do retreats and so forth. I have to watch myself and back off if need be. Sometimes it's good to back off and do something mindless. I'm lucky I live in Thailand and have access to cheap massage.
dharmacorps
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Re: Can Mindfulness Make Your Depression/Anxiety Worse?

Post by dharmacorps »

tamdrin wrote: Fri Aug 28, 2020 12:07 am
I have SZ but still practice full on, do retreats and so forth. I have to watch myself and back off if need be. Sometimes it's good to back off and do something mindless. I'm lucky I live in Thailand and have access to cheap massage.
I remember that about you, friend. Glad to hear your practice is going well! :anjali:
BrokenBones
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Re: Can Mindfulness Make Your Depression/Anxiety Worse?

Post by BrokenBones »

Depends on what you're taking mindfulness to mean. One suggestion would be to be 'mindful' of Dhamma... that is thinking & pondering on whatever Buddha's Teachings you are attracted to (don't spend too much time on watching three phases of a footstep or playing games with sensations).

Metta
sunnat
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Post by sunnat »

correct mindfulness, awareness of the rising and passing of phenomena, moment to moment, means a lessening of the suppression of pleasant and unpleasant feelings. As one abandons the delight and hatred of feelings, kamma resultants, sankharas, manifest and disappear and if not re-acted to, results in a lessening of past kamma fruits and thus one moves closer to liberation.

If one performs unwholesome actions, and does not perform wholesome actions then there is a continually proliferating load of bad kamma fruit following one resulting in a prolonged experience of bad kamma resultants making the experience of meditation seem not worth doing. Strive for stream entry.
BrokenBones
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Re:

Post by BrokenBones »

sunnat wrote: Sat Aug 29, 2020 5:33 am correct mindfulness, awareness of the rising and passing of phenomena, moment to moment, means a lessening of the suppression of pleasant and unpleasant feelings. As one abandons the delight and hatred of feelings, kamma resultants, sankharas, manifest and disappear and if not re-acted to, results in a lessening of past kamma fruits and thus one moves closer to liberation.

If one performs unwholesome actions, and does not perform wholesome actions then there is a continually proliferating load of bad kamma fruit following one resulting in a prolonged experience of bad kamma resultants making the experience of meditation seem not worth doing. Strive for stream entry.
Sutta reference?

Buddhist Sutta not Jain please.

Metta
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Crazy cloud
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Re: Can Mindfulness Make Your Depression/Anxiety Worse?

Post by Crazy cloud »

Wrong question.

Right question: Can wrong mindfulness worsen your depression?

Yes, it can.
If you didn't care
What happened to me
And I didn't care for you

We would zig-zag our way
Through the boredom and pain
Occasionally glancing up through the rain

Wondering which of the
Buggers to blame
And watching for pigs on the wing
- Roger Waters
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greenjuice
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Re: Can Mindfulness Make Your Depression/Anxiety Worse?

Post by greenjuice »

Knowing what science says about how depression and anxiety work and how one should or should not deal with them - I can see how it can make it worse. For a lot of people the first step needs to be what's called cognitive distancing or decentering or defusion, where a person learns how to distance his 'observing self' - which controls attention and voluntary decisions from his involuntary stream of consciousness. To do that, the person needs to practice some kind of meditation, it is maybe best to first do OMM 'open monitoring meditation' (paying 'bare attention' to whatever arises in the mind), and then FAM 'focused attention meditation' (focusing on some object of meditation while ignoring what automatically arises in the mind).

For OMM I find it easy to see how it trip people out if they come across instructions from it from some Theravada or similar viewpoints, which talk about how there is no self. Or even if it is not said to them that what they will see is the normal workings of the mind, a lot of people never thought about how much of their mind is chaotic and works involuntarily, and I know people who had a reaction of fear and shock when they first confronted that fact via meditation. For FAM that same reaction can happen, and similarly, I can also see how it can make people get into much difficulties if they are not instructed well about how focusing looks like, namely that there will necessarily be automatic mental activities on the periphery of consciousness. Some people might think that focus means they are supposed to totally prevent or distracting thoughts, which is of course impossible (except by entering into the 2nd jhana), and having such an impossible expectation of what meditation should look like is bound to be bad experience.
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Mahabrahma
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Re: Can Mindfulness Make Your Depression/Anxiety Worse?

Post by Mahabrahma »

Everyone can overcome whatever hurdles there are in their life and practice whatever they want to in Buddhism, including perfect mindfulness and the exact same meditation as the Buddha practiced. For some it was more difficult than others at various times, but ultimately before the end of Samsara everyone achieved Awakening, and it is a state possible for anyone at any stage at their existence, it is something that comes from deep within, a state of Metta, not dependant on another beings decision on whether they can achieve Enlightenment or not. If that factor is there, then with the proper devotion anyone can overcome the practical problems they may have in their life that are preventing them from doing what they want in Buddhism, because if the Bodhicitta for it is there, then it is there for a reason. There are boundless ways to heal, so don't give up on yourself. Don't believe anyone who is telling you that you can't be the kind of good Buddhist you want to be, because from them it's just coming from their mental speculation, not fact. Because all the facts in Buddhism come from the pure Metta of the Buddha.
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DooDoot
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Re: Re:

Post by DooDoot »

BrokenBones wrote: Sat Aug 29, 2020 1:14 pm
sunnat wrote: Sat Aug 29, 2020 5:33 am correct mindfulness, awareness of the rising and passing of phenomena, moment to moment, means a lessening of the suppression of pleasant and unpleasant feelings. As one abandons the delight and hatred of feelings, kamma resultants, sankharas, manifest and disappear and if not re-acted to, results in a lessening of past kamma fruits and thus one moves closer to liberation.
Sutta reference?

Buddhist Sutta not Jain please.
MN 37, MN 38, MN 140, MN 148, Iti 44, etc, SN 12.37; SN 35.145, etc.. :roll:
There is always an official executioner. If you try to take his place, It is like trying to be a master carpenter and cutting wood. If you try to cut wood like a master carpenter, you will only hurt your hand.

https://soundcloud.com/doodoot/paticcasamuppada
https://soundcloud.com/doodoot/anapanasati
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