Depression and meditation-is it safe?

On more than one occasion I have been advised not to try meditation as part of my recovery from deep depression. This came as a surprise at first as I had always thought that meditation aids relaxation and provides relief from stress and anxiety. So it does, but there are also times when meditation is not advised when suffering with depression and you should bear this in mind if you are thinking of it as relief from your low mood.

When and why should it be avoided?

The meditation process of focusing inwards can actually heighten feelings of despair and depression and it is not recommended that you meditate when you are extremely depressed especially not if you are having thoughts of self-harming.

For those with depression it helps if you find an experienced meditator with whom you can work closely face-to-face, by phone or on-line. This is because when depressed, a person tends to focus on what’s wrong and this can lead to feelings that the meditation isn’t working, even when it is. An experienced meditator can help you deal with the frustration and feelings of failure.

In addition when meditating you focus your thoughts  inwards and it can trigger a person to over-think about and analyse what is wrong in their lives (rumination). Far from helping the recovery from depression-it can make it worse.

Meditation can certainly help people recover from depression and reduce stress and anxiety when practised at the right stage of recovery and under the right conditions. But if you are in any doubt as to whether meditation is right for you, seek expert advice.

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6 thoughts on “Depression and meditation-is it safe?

  1. Fascinating insight Caroline. It makes sense when I hear it and I can think in my own experience of how meditating has harmed me while deeply depressed.

    Thank you!

    – Phoenix

  2. Thank you Phoenix. The more I communicate with my tribe the more I realise just how lucky I have been with my treatment over the years. I have had top-quality care support and advice from day one and I’m beginning to realise how rare that is. It makes me cross to think that it is a lottery when it comes to mental health care. My psychologist was very open about the dangers of meditating when in a deep depression, and hypnosis can harm as well. But the best piece of advice I was given was right at the beginning when an enlightened GP told me that “anti-depressants won’t cure your depression, but they will buy you the time for you to find the cure”. OK so it may take a while, and I must be a slow learner but I never give up trying!
    Take care
    Caroline x

  3. Your GP put it well. That sounds like the basis for a whole post. It’s too significant to get lost in comment chatter.


    – Phoenix

  4. Thanks- not many people are warned about the potential adverse effects of meditation I have found. The mind is a strange and wonderful thing and doing the wrong thing at the wrong time can be so dangerous. It’s the same with therapies like NLP/ CBT/counselling. Some worked for me, but without a professional diagnosis I wouldn’t recommend them to everyone just because it helped me. Dangerous territory methinks.

  5. I really appreciated the opportunity to read this post. I agree, wholeheartedly. On the other hand, I’ve had a lot of success with something I call “moving meditation” when I’m in that place. For example, at one point I lived in a developing neighborhood. There was an empty block that was nothing but grass. However, a sidewalk went all the way around without break, or interruption by driveways and the like. I would walk or rollerblade around that block over and over again. Sometimes I did it for up to an hour. The benefit was that I didn’t have the opportunity to ruminate, but it still quieted my mind.

    Mindfulness has also proven useful. Throwing every ounce of concentration into washing the dishes so that I don’t have to think the thoughts that want to go through my head? Priceless.

    Thank you for sharing,


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