A recent study has found that over one quarter of regular practitioners of meditation have experienced unpleasant psychological experiences as a result, indicating a need for further research into the potential negative effects of meditation.
The study, led by University College of London researchers and published in PLOS One, asked participants if they had experienced ‘anxiety, fear, distorted emotions or thoughts, altered sense of self or the world’ that may have been caused by meditation. 25.6% of the 1,232 participants indicated that they had encountered these kinds of unpleasant experience.
The study also showed that more men than women had encountered these experiences, as well as more non-religious than religious participants. In terms of the type of meditative practice assessed, participants were more likely to have encountered these experiences if they had taken part in a meditation retreat, as well as if they practiced only ‘deconstructive meditation’.
The researchers indicated that longitudinal studies will be needed not only to interpret these results, but also to determine both the circumstances causing unpleasant experiences and the potential long term effects. This research will also help to determine which if any unpleasant experiences are important components of meditative practice, as opposed to purely negative experiences to be avoided where possible.
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