Revealed: Meditation can trigger depression and anxiety, according to new research that claims practice can release traumatic memories and psychological issues
Meditation has long been said to do wonders for the brain and stress relief, new reports have challenged this idea and suggest that the practice could, in some cases, actually be causing harm.
Clinical cognitive and behavioural psychologist and mediation expert, Dr Paula Watkins, suggests that during meditation, people can be taken too far into the ‘recesses’ of their minds and become overwhelmed with feelings of depression and anxiety.
'Some of these effects are incredibly mild but meditation is becoming increasingly popular and people are finally taking a break from their very busy day to day lives, and if there is any psychological issues, suppressed emotions or a history of trauma, that stuff can come up,' Dr Watkins told Daily Mail Australia.
Backed by years of research, Dr Watkins says intensive meditation retreats are the most common place for these effects to occur and labels them as a ‘psychological boot camp’ for those who attend, especially after building up years of suppressed emotions.
'Intensive meditation retreats are not all bliss, a lot of stuff can come up when you are meditating ten hours a day for ten days...it can release blocked or suppressed emotions and memories,' Dr Watkins said.
'Even in our daily meditations the internal landscape of what's going on in our minds and bodies is always changing.'
It is suggested that if someone is experiencing any manic symptoms, they should not meditate or go to meditation retreats without getting the help of someone qualified to help them.
People who experience psychosis or schizophrenia are of biggest concerns to experts, as hallucinations and delusions can be worsened as they are 'mental events.'
'When meditation is happening all sorts of mental events arise and in meditation we are watching and directly paying attention to these events...and if they are coming from a place of mental illness there's the risk that the person is going to be paying more attention to them,' Dr Watkins said.
'It is not safe for them to be turning their attention inward unless they are meditating under the guidance of a registered health practitioner, meditation is not a replacement for therapy.'
Mediate with support: Dr Paula Watkins recommends people should meditate for the first time with support
Dr Watkins also recommends people identify what they want to achieve through meditation, so they can find a style suited to them and stresses it is not a substitute to therapy.
'I feel very strongly that people who meditate for the first time should be supported safely in a variety of different techniques until they find a technique that resonates well with them...research hasn't answers whether there is one style safer than others,' Dr Watkins said.
'It bothers me that people are saying their methods are better than others...meditation is not a regulated industry and if a technique is promoted as 'the best' there is no evidence to support this.'
'Don't be scared: Mediation is still beneficial, but people need to be aware of the effects it can have on the mind.'
Although people have suffered adverse reactions to various styles of meditation, Dr Watkins hopes the reports don't scare people away from meditation.
'For the bulk of people meditation is absolutely beneficial and it helps us to relax, get calm, increases blood flow to the frontal lobe and can even help cultivate compassion and empathy and a range of interpersonal benefits,' Dr Watkins said.
'People shouldn't be getting scared and nervous, meditation is a great thing but people just need to be aware of this information.'
Dr Watkins is hosting a live workshop on August 9th – 30th at the inYoga Studios in Surry Hills to introduce people to meditation, as well as a nine-week online course called Calm, Conscious and Connected.