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Mind & Mood

A pill-free way to treat anxiety

February 1, 2023

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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

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Heidi Godman, Executive Editor, Harvard Health Letter

Heidi Godman is the executive editor of the Harvard Health Letter. Before coming to the Health Letter, she was an award-winning television news anchor and medical reporter for 25 years. Heidi was named a journalism fellow … See Full Bio
View all posts by Heidi Godman

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Anxiety and Stress Disorders

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