This study looks at meditation-related experiences that are beyond health-related outcomes such as experiences that are challenging, difficult, distressing, functionally impairing and/or require additional support. The qualitative data collected was based on interviews with Western Buddhist meditators. The interview questions probed meditation experiences and influencing factors including interpretations and management strategies. A follow-up survey provided quantitative assessment of causality, impairment and other demographic and practice related variables. The results showed that participant interpretation and responses to the experiences differed considerably, ranging from very positive to very negative and the associated levels of distress and functional impairment ranged from minimal and transient to severe and enduring. This study aims to increase understanding of the effects of contemplative practices and to provide resources for meditators, clinicians, meditation researchers and meditation teachers. Continue reading
Kuijpers, van der Heijden, Tuinier and Verhoeven (2007) reported on a male patient who after meditating experienced a psychotic episode. Further study revealed that this was not an isolated incident. The examples found included both those with a pre-existing psychiatric history and those without. The researchers suggest that meditation could act as a trigger in vulnerable patients. Continue reading
Lazarus’s study (1976) concentrated on Transcendental Meditation. It concluded that while the practice was shown to be beneficial, this was not universal and could initiate psychiatric problems such as depression, anxiety and schizophrenia and was therefore not suitable for everyone. Continue reading
Lomas, Cartwright, Edginton and Ridge (2015) interviewed male meditators. Analysis of the results showed that, while beneficial for most, a quarter of the data revealed significant difficulties. Meditation for some is a difficult practice to learn, giving rise to challenging thoughts and emotions. Conditions such as depression and anxiety were made worse in some cases and psychotic episodes triggered in others. Continue reading
This paper discusses research safety in relation to Mindfulness Meditation (MM). In this paper recommendations come from consulting 17 primary publications and 5 secondary reports/literature reviews of meditation side effects. In this field of MM mental health issues are the most frequently reported side effects followed by physical health then spiritual health consequences. For each of these categories of potential adverse effects the paper offers MM researchers methods to assess the relative risks of each as it pertains to their particular research program.
27 long term meditators were studied before and one month and six months after a retreat. 17 (62.9%) reported at least one adverse effect 6 months after the retreat and 2 (7.4%) suffered profound adverse effects. The paper discusses the implications for personal and spiritual growth. Limitations of the study and suggestions for future research are also offered. Continue reading
This paper reports a case in which two separate manic episodes arose after meditation using techniques from two different traditions (yoga and zen). Other cases of psychotic illness precipitated by meditation and mystical speculation reported in the literature are discussed. Continue reading
A women when she was 22 years old experienced a panic attack followed by depression after following a Mindfulness course.
To all those who are considering mindfulness meditation, I would like to tell you that I wish everyday of my life that I had not agreed to practise it. My experience with mindful meditation is perhaps the opposite of what you have heard. It is one that precipitated and I believed caused my depression and anxiety. It provided the opposite of its touted benefits. Continue reading
Damcho Pamo, a British woman, experienced psychosis and mania, when she was 51, while attending an intensive meditation retreat. Prior to this chapter in her life she had no history of psychological problems and in fact was psychologically robust.
In 1997 I became involved with a Zen group. I adopted a daily meditation practice and attended three retreats a year, two weekends and one five day. The retreats were intensive as they were in silence, the only opportunity to talk was in individual interviews with the teacher, and there were around eight hours of meditation a day.
A European women, when she was 28 years old, experienced adverse psychological effects after attending an intensive Vipassana retreat.
In my late twenties, I was a yoga teacher. I lived and taught across the world living a vibrant and exciting life that I had chosen and built. In December 2014, because I was advised by many people in my yoga circles to do so, I attended a Vipassana Meditation retreat. It’s a silent retreat that last for 11 days. Continue reading