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Mind & Mood
A pill-free way to treat anxiety
For people with an anxiety disorder — chronic, intense worry that makes it hard to concentrate or sleep — first-line treatments are often medications called antidepressants. They can have side effects such nausea, fatigue, headache, or sexual dysfunction. But a randomized trial published online Nov. 9, 2022, by JAMA Psychiatry found that a pill-free approach might be just as effective for reducing anxiety symptoms. Scientists randomly assigned almost 300 people to either take an antidepressant called escitalopram (Lexapro) every day or participate in a mindfulness-based stress reduction program. The program included 45 minutes of daily meditation at home and a weekly 2.5-hour in-person class with an instructor. Participants learned a number of mindfulness techniques, such as breath awareness and stretching designed to bring awareness to the body. After eight weeks, both groups had similar results, reducing anxiety symptoms by about 30% over that period.
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About the Author
Heidi Godman, Executive Editor, Harvard Health Letter
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No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.
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Anxiety and Stress Disorders
Everyone worries or gets scared sometimes. But if you feel extremely worried or afraid much of the time, or if you repeatedly feel panicky, you may have an anxiety disorder. Anxiety disorders are among the most common mental illnesses, affecting roughly 40 million American adults each year. This Special Health Report, Anxiety and Stress Disorders, discusses the latest and most effective treatment approaches, including cognitive behavioral therapies, psychotherapy, and medications. A special section delves into alternative treatments for anxiety, such as relaxation techniques, mindfulness meditation, and biofeedback.
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