I don’t really get on with is mindfulness: especially mindfulness-based meditation. I still advocate for other people to try out their techniques to see if they’ll work for them, but for me, they don’t work. To Make matters worse, in some cases they trigger my anxiety disorders, causing them to escalate extremely rapidly. My anxiety disorders and mindfulness just don’t go together.
What Is Mindfulness?
Simply put, being mindful is to be completely in the moment (Mindful). We’re meant to do this without judging our thoughts so as to not distract our attention from being in the present moment (PickTheBrain). To achieve this mindfulness state, you can do simple activities and exercises that will help you focus on the moment, such as mindfulness meditation.
What Is Mindfulness Meditation?
Mindfulness meditation involves sitting somewhere quiet, being silent, and focusing your attention on your thoughts, sounds, the sensations of breathing or parts of the body while being sure to bring your mind back if it starts to wander (NHS).
My Experience With Mindful Meditation
Meditation has never been something that has worked for me, my brain goes crazy when I try to clear my mind, and it will annoy me with thoughts of my past, singing songs, or just making random noises to feel the silencing of my thoughts. But it can get worse if it’s a meditation that requires you to focus on your senses and bodily sensations because these aspects make up a lot of my triggers for my anxiety disorders.
My anxiety disorders are rooted in my body sensations and my senses, and as such, they’re oversensitive, and I have to do my best to tune them out the best I can in order to avoid having psychotic episodes.
When I first developed my anxiety disorders, I used to fight my thoughts by trying to rationalise everything, but that didn’t help, instead, I learnt to let my thoughts run their course and ignore my bodily sensations, which has helped quite a lot.
Doing something that requires the opposite, to focus on the very bodily sensations that can cause me to have a psychotic break, invites only disaster.
As part of my postgraduate degree (addiction psychology and counselling) course, we were required to practise some mindfulness-based meditation, which of course I was reluctant to do, but tried it anyway: I can hardly try a technique out with a client if I have no experience of it.
As we were going through the experience of guided meditation, I had an anxiety attack. My anxiety was triggered once we moved to the parts where we were meant to be focusing in on our bodily sensations, and it happened within seconds of me starting to do as we were guided.
I’d not had an anxiety attack like this in a very long time. Nowadays I can plough through it and endure the torture of it. This time, however, it was so bad that I was given permission to leave and go home because I was experiencing mild hallucinations.
The person guiding us in our class was so confused; they subscribed to the idea that mindfulness-based meditation only helps people with anxiety, and there was no way it should do the opposite. But what they don’t factor in is how each person’s anxiety is different and will have individualised triggers for that person. For me, that was focusing on my bodily senses.
Thus, the grounding techniques that were part of this meditation basically just singled out the worst aspects of my anxiety and ramped it up to near full psychotic episode in seconds, all because the practitioner didn’t realise it might be a good idea to at least check if anyone had an anxiety disorder (or PTSD), and what the triggers are for said disorder(s).
To add a bit of context to why this was such an unpleasant experience, here are a few of my bodily sensation triggers: wetness perception; temperature perception; pain perception; and tactile sensations such as pressure and texture. My brain starts to process these incorrectly when I start to pay too much attention to them and as my anxiety levels increase, the processing of these senses gets worse. This will lead to me experiencing sensory hallucinations, which, if they get out of hand, cause me to have a psychotic break as my sense of reality shatters.
This is never a fun experience, and this time was no exception.
So personally and professionally (when I return to work within the field again), I can never do mindfulness, or, for that matter, use any grounding technique, which is kind of ironic given that they’re meant to help people with anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
I will still recommend it to others to try, and if in a professional setting I’ll refer them to someone else to try the techniques with, although I would check first if they have similar bodily sensation triggers for their anxiety disorder as I do. Because they could end up having the same unpleasant experience as I did otherwise.
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Unwanted Life readers.
18 thoughts on “Mindfulness And Its Downsides: Anxiety Disorders Vs Mindfulness”
Talking about mental illness is so, so important!
Very interesting read! Im very much pro mindfulness and meditation so its interesting to read from someones point of view it doesn’t work for.
Hello, what a great post! This is a really interesting read. It’s good to see someone else’s take on anxiety and how you handle the unwanted thoughts. I’ve never thought about letting them run their course, always tried to fight them.
Thank you for sharing this post!
Letting the thoughts run there course was the best decision I ever made
Mindfulness is something I always try to practice. Tho there are amazing benefits of meditation, meditating is something I find myself struggling to do. I feel like while there are amazing benefits of meditation, different things work for different people and we as individuals should only make do with what works for us. I never knew anything about grounding technique before now and I have never used it.
Indeed, we all need to find what works for us if we’re going to get the most out of what we do to support ourselves
That was a very interesting read! I always hear about mindfulness and the benefits of it, but when i tried, I too found myself struggling. I am sorry you had to go through an anxiety attack so bad you had hallucinations, as you said, they should have checked before with everyone. I guess that not everything works for everyone like a mould and meditation is the same. Thanks for sharing x
One of the downsides to movements like mindfulness is there one size fits all approach they take, such as believing all anxiety disorders are the same
I find meditation not that helpful personally, as my mind always overthinks and I prefer distraction to silence. Thank you for sharing x
We’re the same when it comes to mediation then
Every time I read one of your blog post I learn and understand so much. I’m so grateful. Thank you
Thank you ?
This was an interesting read! I’m completely pro meditation because it’s helped me with my anxiety and panic attack, but I didn’t even realize how it can be triggering to some. I’m definitely going to be more conscious of that especially in writing blog posts on it.
I may be a rare cause in how extreme it can affect someone, but it never hurts to beaware of such reactions so you can avoid causing harm
I’ve never got along with meditation either! I find it almost impossible to stay physically still, let alone still my mind. I do however find it helpful sometimes to try and focus on the present moment and what I am currently doing, instead of thinking about the past or worrying about the future. So I guess I would say that mindfulness in that sense helps me, but not meditation where I have to sit still or quiet, or clear my mind. x
Taking the parts that work for you and ditching the rest is a great way to tailor your own self-care resources
I hadn’t really thought about how mindfulness might trigger anxiety, but I can definitely see it now. Mindfulness is tricky and isn’t for everyone, that’s for sure. I can see it as a valuable technique but it hasn’t done anything for me (positive or negative) when I’ve tried it.
It’s also a shame that organisations are trying to use mindfulness as an alternative to providing better working conditions