Improve Bipolar Disorder with Mindfulness

Improve Bipolar Disorder with Mindfulness


By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.


“Mindfulness looks like a potentially effective way of managing bipolar disorder, especially the depressive pole, which may be the most difficult to treat with medication alone. Mindfulness exercises and meditations are useful for people with bipolar disorder (manic depression) because mindfulness decreases the relapse rate for depression, reduces stress and anxiety, which contribute significantly to the onset of both mania and depression and may worsen the course of the illness, and improves a person’s ability to manage thoughts and feelings and increases awareness of the way the person tends to internalize external stimuli.” Shamash Alidina


Bipolar Disorder, also known as Manic Depressive Disorder, is a mood disorder characterized by alternating states of extreme depression, relative normalcy, and extreme euphoria (mania). The symptoms of depression and mania are so severe that the individual is debilitated and unable to conduct their normal daily lives. The depression is so severe that suicide occurs in about 1% of cases of Bipolar Disorder. It is thought to result from imbalances in the monoamine neurotransmitter systems in the nervous system and appears to be highly linked to the genes. There are great individual differences in Bipolar Disorder. The extreme mood swings can last for a few days to months and can occur only once or reoccur frequently.


Bipolar Disorder affects about 1% of the population throughout the world at any time. But about 3% to 10% of the population may experience it sometime during their lives. It is usually treated with drugs. But, these medications are not always effective and can have difficult side effects. Hence, there is a great need for alternative treatments. Mindfulness practices and treatments have been shown to be effective for major mental disorders, including depression and anxiety disorders and to improve the regulation of emotions. Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) was specifically developed for the treatment of depression and has been shown to be very effective. MBCT involves mindfulness training, containing sitting and walking meditation and body scan, and cognitive therapy to alter how the patient relates to the thought processes that often underlie and exacerbate psychological symptoms. So, MBCT may be a safe and effective treatment for Bipolar Disorder.


In today’s Research News article “Mindfulness-Based Treatment for Bipolar Disorder: A Systematic Review of the Literature.” See summary below or view the full text of the study at:, Bojic and Becerra reviewed and summarized the published research literature on the effectiveness of Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) for the treatment of Bipolar Disorder. They identified 13 published research studies.


They report that the published research finds that MBCT in conjunction with drug treatments produces significant improvements in most of the symptoms of Bipolar Disorder. MBCT  was found to produce significant improvements in mood, including decreased mania, anxiety, and depression. In addition, there were significant increases in the patients’ ability to regulate their emotions and their ability to think clearly (cognitive abilities). The studies report that MBCT remains effective one year after the conclusion of treatment.


Thus the current state of the research suggests that Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) is a safe, effective, and lasting treatment for Bipolar Disorder when used in addition to the standard drug treatments. These are important and exciting findings. They suggest that MBCT can help to relieve the suffering and improve the patients ability to conduct their lives.


So, improve bipolar disorder with mindfulness.


“The extreme highs and lows of bipolar disorder can be difficult to cope with, and difficult for those around you. The disorder causes anxiety at one end and depression at the other. Meditation is an easy and natural method for relaxing and reducing stress in anyone, and particularly in people with bipolar disorder.” – Anthony Watt


CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies


This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ and on Twitter @MindfulResearch


Study Summary


Bojic, S., & Becerra, R. (2017). Mindfulness-Based Treatment for Bipolar Disorder: A Systematic Review of the Literature. Europe’s Journal of Psychology, 13(3), 573–598.



Despite the increasing number of studies examining the effects of mindfulness interventions on symptoms associated with Bipolar Disorder (BD), the effectiveness of this type of interventions remains unclear. The aim of the present systematic review was to (i) critically review all available evidence on Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) as a form of intervention for BD; (ii) discuss clinical implications of MBCT in treating patients with BD; and (iii) provide a direction for future research. The review presents findings from 13 studies (N = 429) that fulfilled the following selection criteria: (i) included BD patients; (ii) presented results separately for BD patients and control groups (where a control group was available); (iii) implemented MBCT intervention; (iv) were published in English; (v) were published in a peer reviewed journal; and (vi) reported results for adult participants. Although derived from a relatively small number of studies, results from the present review suggest that MBCT is a promising treatment in BD in conjunction with pharmacotherapy. MBCT in BD is associated with improvements in cognitive functioning and emotional regulation, reduction in symptoms of anxiety depression and mania symptoms (when participants had residual manic symptoms prior to MBCT). These, treatment gains were maintained at 12 month follow up when mindfulness was practiced for at least 3 days per week or booster sessions were included. Additionally, the present review outlined some limitations of the current literature on MBCT interventions in BD, including small study sample sizes, lack of active control groups and idiosyncratic modifications to the MBCT intervention across studies. Suggestions for future research included focusing on factors underlying treatment adherence and understanding possible adverse effects of MBCT, which could be of crucial clinical importance.