Keeping Thoughts in Mind

Cognitive therapy aids bipolar disorder sufferers

(RxWiki News) Meditation's general popularity has sky-rocketed in recent years, yet could its calming effects prove useful as a health treatment?  Researchers believe so.  

A new innovative therapy combines past treatments with meditation and mindfulness techniques in order to holistically work the mind through trauma and dysfunction. Recently published in the Journal of Psychiatric Practice, a new study highlights the use of this therapy on bipolar disorder patients.

"Ask your doctor about mindfulness-based cognitive therapy."

The study assessed bipolar patients who participated in an open pilot-trial of mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT). Eight adults met DSM-IV criteria for bipolar disorder out of the MA General Hospital (MGH). The MBCT consisted of twelve, 120-minute group treatment sessions.

The Behavior Rating Inventory of Executive Function (BRIEF) and Frontal Systems Behavior Scale (FrSBS) was used to determine functioning capacity including memory-related changes and improvements in task completions. After the therapy, bipolar disorder patients reported improvements in both.

Although the results were not correlated with a decrease in depression, patients did experience increased mindfulness and awareness with a decrease in judgmental behavior. Unfortunately these improvements did not all stand the test of time, and after three months, executive functioning remained the primary improvement.

Associated with bipolar disorder, cognitive impairments cause functional difficulties to patients even if episodes remain dormant for some time. Cognitive therapy aids patients to overcome these issues by identifying seeking change in dysfunctional behavioral, emotional, and irrational responses.

MBCT blends aspects of cognitive therapy with Buddhist mindfulness techniques and teaches patients to accept emotions and thoughts without judgments rather than ignoring them. Professor Mark Williams from the University of Oxford explains: “it seemed this particular way of mental training would get at all of the processes that actually were damaging people’s mental health.

“When your mood begins to go down what happens is all the memories from the past come back as if it was happening now. You just dig yourself deeper and deeper into the hole. Mindfulness helps you see the warning signs that you’re going there and also teaches you skillful means of how to dissolve those sort of habits of mind.”

Researchers and doctors from Temple University, MGH, Harvard Medical School, the University of Giessen, and McLean Hospital came together to author this study, concluding, “these results provide preliminary evidence that MBCT may be a treatment option that can be used as an adjunct to medication to improve cognitive functioning in bipolar disorder.”

Review Date: 
November 28, 2011