Article by Conscious Life News
By Nora Monk
Meditation is the old traditional practice that Western cultures are embracing to heal our modern issues and increase our well-being and self-awareness. People have turned to meditation to address problems related to stress, addictions, insomnia, mood disorders, pain, and even their sex lives. Although there are countless examples of meditation improving people’s lives, what we hear about less often, but is just as important to know, is that meditation can go wrong. Some people who have tried it have experienced severe personality and mood changes, or other side effects that we will address here.
Meditation often leads to calming and a lowering in blood pressure and heart rate, but it’s actually also known to have caused seizures. Experts have analyzed people with epilepsy undergoing meditation and have noticed that when a person enters a meditative state, their neurochemistry and neurophysiology in the brain is altered, which can cause epileptic seizures or even change your susceptibility to epilepsy. A Canadian neuroscientist studied over a thousand people during meditation and his research showed that it can cause symptoms of partial epilepsy, which include feeling vibrations, hearing voices, and other hallucinations, leading these individuals to believe they have had a spiritual experience. Research into this side effect of meditation is still ongoing.
People who practice meditation are often surprised to hear that anxiety can be caused by meditation, as it’s commonly understood to be something helped by meditating. Some research now shows that meditation could have a negative impact on people who already have a history of depression and mental illness. A Brown University study shows that some people feel an increase in anxiety, fear, panic, and stress when meditating. Apparently, meditation can even lead to such severe symptoms that a psychiatric diagnosis may be required. Rita Hayword, a health writer at UK Top Writers and Big Assignments, recommends that “anyone with a history of anxiety or depression should meditate only if an expert is present and monitoring their responses. If a meditation practitioner enters a negative mental state, it’s important that someone is present who can help them escape that.”
3. Panic attacks
Meditation is known for causing intense emotions, feelings, and recollections so for some people that can actually cause panic attacks. This may be the more common negative effect of meditation, and people who have a history of panic attacks are strongly urged to discuss meditation with their doctor before adopting that practice. In fact, it’s not only panic attacks that may happen, but also depressive episodes and manic episodes.
This is not as serious as other side effects on this list, but it’s still reported as a possible negative aspect of meditation, and many experience this to some extent. The struggle of changing your mental state during meditation can cause tension and therefore headaches. Certain meditation techniques involve such a forceful focus that anyone from beginners to regular practitioners can feel discomfort, strain, and then headaches. Maura Fenton, a lifestyle blogger at Best British Essays and Boomer say, recommends that “to avoid headaches, practice only gentle meditation and relax after your meditation for a few minutes before jumping back into a regular state. This will allow your brain to adapt to the change and hopefully minimize your chance of getting headaches.”
5. Mental atrophy
A newly identified risk with meditation is the possibility of mental atrophy because it deprives your brain of different stimulus which causes sensory deprivation. Whereas some people believe that meditation stimulates your mind and creates heightened awareness, certain techniques such as simply sitting and focusing your breathing deprive your mind or stimulation and over a long period of time can cause brain atrophy. In fact, many people who practice meditation throughout their lives have said they now struggle with certain cognitive exercises like remembering names or arithmetic.
This is perhaps the most shocking possible effect of meditation. It is highly unlikely that meditation will cause death, but it has been known to happen, specifically because of the seizure risk for epileptics. Anyone who has a history of seizures or mental illness are strongly urged to speak to their doctor before tackling meditation.
Mindfulness and meditation are very helpful for many people to get a sense of their inner self, but the takeaway is to be aware of the effects it could have on your body and mitigating those risks.