The topic I would like to explore is the negative effects of using meditation as a treatment for schizophrenia. Is it a viable treatment option? The negative side affects documented in several trials as well as personal accounts will allow me to come to a consensus. The title I would like to use is “The Aftermath of Schizophrenia and Meditation Meeting”. By looking at the side effects from both schizophrenia and meditation then going deeper will show me the bigger picture.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) “Schizophrenia is a serious mental illness that affects how a person thinks, feels, and behaves. People with schizophrenia may seem like they have lost touch with reality, which causes significant distress for the individual, their family members, and friends. If left untreated, the symptoms of schizophrenia can be persistent and disabling. However, effective treatments are available. When delivered in a timely, coordinated, and sustained manner, treatment can help affected individuals to engage in school or work, achieve independence, and enjoy personal relationships.” NIMH » Schizophrenia (nih.gov)
Possible side effects are but not limited to the following according the Mayo Clinic;
- Delusions. These are false beliefs that are not based in reality. For example, you think that you’re being harmed or harassed; certain gestures or comments are directed at you; you have exceptional ability or fame; another person is in love with you; or a major catastrophe is about to occur. Delusions occur in most people with schizophrenia.
- Hallucinations. These usually involve seeing or hearing things that don’t exist. Yet for the person with schizophrenia, they have the full force and impact of a normal experience. Hallucinations can be in any of the senses, but hearing voices is the most common hallucination.
- Disorganized thinking (speech). Disorganized thinking is inferred from disorganized speech. Effective communication can be impaired, and answers to questions may be partially or completely unrelated. Rarely, speech may include putting together meaningless words that can’t be understood, sometimes known as word salad.
- Extremely disorganized or abnormal motor behavior. This may show in a number of ways, from childlike silliness to unpredictable agitation. Behavior isn’t focused on a goal, so it’s hard to do tasks. Behavior can include resistance to instructions, inappropriate or bizarre posture, a complete lack of response, or useless and excessive movement.
- Negative symptoms. This refers to reduced or lack of ability to function normally. For example, the person may neglect personal hygiene or appear to lack emotion (doesn’t make eye contact, doesn’t change facial expressions or speaks in a monotone). Also, the person may lose interest in everyday activities, socially withdraw or lack the ability to experience pleasure.
- In men, schizophrenia symptoms typically start in the early to mid-20s. In women, symptoms typically begin in the late 20s. It’s uncommon for children to be diagnosed with schizophrenia and rare for those older than age 45.
Meditation Side effects
Not specifically limited to individuals with mental health issues, but is known to happen in anyone is the following;
- Anxiety-Research shows that some methods may, in fact, harm people with a history of anxiety and depression.
Such people may feel increased anxiety, fear, stress, panic and low moods when meditating. Research conducted by Brown University neuroscientist Dr Willoughby Britton showed that feelings of fear and anxiety are a common negative effect of meditation.
Dr. Britton has stated that during a retreat she felt like she “was having a nervous breakdown.” She later learned that intense practices could lead to symptoms severe enough to warrant a psychiatric diagnosis (1).
Sarah Bowen, a researcher at the University of Washington, suggests that people who have a history of depression or anxiety should only meditate under expert guidance in case stressful, painful or upsetting thoughts do arise.
Neurobiologist Dr Nancy Hayes, states that “Patients with emotional disorders may have adverse reactions to meditation.”
- Seizures-Neuroscientist Dr. Michael Persinger at Leurentian University of Canada researched the relationship between seizures and meditation. In 1993 he studied 1,018 meditators. The results of his research show that meditation can lead to symptoms of partial epilepsy, including hearing voices, feeling vibrations and experiencing visual abnormalities. Epileptic patients suffer from auditory and visual hallucinations, with many believing that they have spiritual experiences, including speaking with God.
Persinger has subsequently researched the experience of so-called “spiritual events.” In his tests, Persinger had patients wear helmets through which were passed electrical signals that led to magnetically induced seizures. Four out of every five of his test subjects stated that they had experienced a spiritual event.
Hypersensitivity To Light And Sound and Movement Problems
Brown University researchers recently interviewed 100 meditators and teachers and asked them about the side effects that they had experienced. A significant portion of the interviewees stated that they had been experiencing hypersensitivity to light and sound, as well as insomnia, occasional involuntary movements, and feelings of fear, anxiety and panic.
Newberg observed that blood flow to the posterior superior parietal lobe decreased during meditation (10). This is the part of the brain involved with navigating our environment. “Patients with damaged posterior superior parietal lobes often cannot move without falling,” he tells us. He also states that oneness (the state in which we feel we are one with our surroundings) could have hidden negative side effects. By blocking blood flow to the posterior superior parietal lobe, you “lose the boundary between yourself and the rest of the world.” This can lead to disorientation and falls.
It Brings Up Painful Memories
When you meditate, your mind relaxes more than usual. Many people who are new to the practice have never experienced such a deep level of inner stillness. Because of this calmness, you become more aware of your mind and your thoughts. Some of those thoughts are unpleasant. For instance, you may notice painful memories. And this might make you feel upset. However, although this can seem like a negative, it is an opportunity to change the way you think and feel.
Another study into the negative side effects of meditation was conducted by Arthur Chappell, a former Maharaj devotee. He states that the practice “Deprives the mind of stimulus”, leading to sensory deprivation.
Meditation side effects
3:Meditation May Predispose to Epilepsy https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15617849
4: Dark Side of Meditation http://healthland.time.com/2013/09/17/aaron-alexis-and-the-dark-side-of-meditation/
5: Effects of meditation https://www.researchgate.net/publication/288468969_Effects_of_meditation_on_brain_electrical_activity
6: Mental Health And Intense Meditation Retreats https://zensydney.com/Mental-Health-and-Intensive-Meditation-Retreats
7:Study documents range of challenging meditation experiences https://www.brown.edu/news/2017-05-24/experiences
8: Meditation may cause negative side effects https://www.today.com/health/meditation-may-cause-negative-effects-some-study-finds-t111957