Stress Reduction

Mindfulness-Based Interventions Effective in Treating Anxiety Disorders

Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) interventions that treat anxiety disorders have been found to be just as effective as escitalopram—a commonly used antidepressant.1

A recent study was conducted to compare the efficacy of MBSR with escitalopram, the usual first-line treatment for anxiety disorders. The researchers conducted a randomized clinical trial that included a noninferiority design with a prespecified noninferiority margin. Recruitment for the study was from June 2018 and February 2020, where 430 patients were assessed for inclusion. In total, 208 patients completed the trial.

Individuals were randomly divided into two cohorts where they received 8 weeks of the weekly MBSR (n = 102) course or escitalopram, dosed from 10 to 20 mg (n = 106) for the same amount of time. The primary outcome—anxiety levels—was assessed with the Clinical Global Impression of Severity scale (CGI-S) that had a predetermined noninferiority margin of -0.495.

The reported baseline mean CGI-S score was 4.44 for the MBSR group and 4.51 for the escitalopram group. Overall, both cohorts experienced a decrease in anxiety levels and symptoms. The researchers reported a mean reduction of 1.35 for MBSR and 1.43 for escitalopram—a statistically significant outcome.

The researchers disclosed in their report that, of the patients who began treatment, 10 participants dropped out of the escitalopram group due to adverse events, and none dropped out from the MBSR group. Further, at least one study-related adverse event occurred for 110 participants in the escitalopram group, and 21 participants in the MBSR group.

Regarding study limitations, the authors noted that the patients in their trial were predominantly female with a relatively high education level and that patient recruitment took place at three urban academic medical centers, which may limit the generalizability of the findings.

Still, the authors believe their study provides enough evidence to recommend MBSR as an effective treatment option anxiety disorders.

“Our study provides evidence for clinicians, insurers and health care systems to recommend, include and provide reimbursement for mindfulness-based stress reduction as an effective treatment for anxiety disorders because mindfulness meditation currently is reimbursed by very few providers,” said Elizabeth Hoge, MD, director of the Anxiety Disorders Research Program and associate professor of psychiatry at Georgetown, in a press release.2


—Jessica Ganga


  1. Hoge EA, Bui E, Mete M, Dutton MA, Baker AE, Simon NM. Mindfulness-based stress reduction vs escitalopram for the treatment of adults with anxiety disorders. JAMA Psychiatry. Published online November 9, 2022. doi:10.1001/jamapyschiatry.2022.3679
  2. Mindfulness-based stress reduction is as effective as an antidepressant drug for treating anxiety disorders. News release. Georgetown University Medical Center; November 9, 2022. Accessed December 8, 2022.