Dr. Krag answers your questions on depression and the benefits of transcendental meditation.
Dr. Krag: The Transcendental Meditation technique tends to produce what is most needed in our lives—balance. It has a healthy "normalizing" effect. So for people who have become too inactive, the regular practice of TM tends to lead to more activity. Conversely, if you have become active to an unhealthy degree, regular TM practice tends to lead to a more balanced life-style. In my experience those who regularly practice the Transcendental Meditation technique have a more stable level of mood and activity.
Dr. Krag: People with depression and taking antidepressants can certainly benefit from the practice of the Transcendental Meditation technique. The benefits of TM are accumulative and gradual . . . don't rush it. It is important to allow the brain physiology to normalize. Continue with your medication and your meditation and later, after a period without depression you may choose to consult with your doctor about the possibility of tapering off. I recommend that you always work with your doctor regarding your medication and not stop it on your own.
Dr. Kaplan: Transcendental Meditation tends to have a balancing effect. We can't say for sure that TM will prevent all episodes of depression but research shows that TM does help to stabilize mood and has a healthy effect. So it is worth a try. I have certainly known people that had a reduction in their depressive episodes after learning TM.
Research also shows a decrease in depression with the practice of TM. For instance, in a study published in the Journal of Counseling and Development, patients suffering from post-traumatic stress problems who learned the Transcendental Meditation technique showed significant reduction in depression after four months, in contrast to others who were randomly assigned to receive psychotherapy and did not show significant reduction in depression.
Dr. Stixrud:This is not a problem since in the practice of the Transcendental Meditation technique we don't go against this natural tendency of the mind to be active. With the TM technique we guide the mind to more refined or settled levels of activity and this leads the physiology to very deep rest. It's easy and natural. And research has shown that when people have this experience of restful alertness on a daily basis, they naturally start feeling more calm, clear and focused in activity.
Our medical expert
James Krag, M.D. is a Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association, president of the Psychiatric Society of Virginia, and former president of the Virginia Association of Community Psychiatrists for four years. He is currently Medical Director of Liberty Point, a residential treatment program for adolescents with psychiatric problems.