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I see lots of articles touting the benefits of meditation. But what are the bad things about it? Maybe if a person has to make quick decisions, meditation would not be a good thing? This could be similar to a paridigm of "Thinking Fast, Thinking Slow" by Kahneman.

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Not a drawback unique to mediation, but opportunity cost tends to be neglected in such discussions. e.g. spending 2 hours mediating might reduce stress, but perhaps TV reduces stress faster. –  zergylord Aug 7 '13 at 18:29

1 Answer 1

The adverse effects of meditation as reported in scientific studies are as follows:

  • relaxation-induced anxiety and panic
  • paradoxical increases in tension
  • less motivation in life
  • boredom
  • pain
  • impaired reality testing
  • confusion and disorientation
  • feeling 'spaced out'
  • depression
  • increased negativity
  • being more judgmental
  • feeling addicted to meditation
  • uncomfortable kinaesthetic sensations
  • mild dissociation
  • feelings of guilt
  • psychosis-like symptoms
  • grandiosity
  • elation
  • destructive behavior
  • suicidal feelings
  • defenselessness
  • fear
  • anger
  • apprehension
  • despair

Also, anecdotal evidence suggests that meditation can worsen symptoms of some psychiatric problems.


Study from 1992:

Adverse effects of meditation: a preliminary investigation of long-term meditators, by Shapiro DH Jr.

Department of Psychiatry and Human Behavior, California College of Medicine, University of California, Irvine.


Adverse effects of meditation were assessed in twenty-seven long term meditators (average 4.27 years) both retrospectively (time one) and prospectively at one month (time two) and six months (time three) following a meditation retreat. At both time one and time three subjects reported significantly more positive effects than negative from meditation. However, of the twenty-seven subjects, seventeen (62.9%) reported at least one adverse effect, and two (7.4%) suffered profound adverse effects. When subjects at time one were divided into three groups based on length of practice (16.7 months; 47.1 months; 105 months) there were no significant differences in adverse effects. How the data should be interpreted, and their implications both for the clinical and psychotherapeutic use of meditation as a relaxation/self-control strategy, and as a technique for facilitating personal and spiritual growth, are discussed. Limitations of the study and suggestions for future research are also offered.

Meta-analysis from 2000:

Meditation: concepts, effects and uses in therapy by Alberto Perez-De-Albeniz and Jeremy Holmes

International Journal of Psychotherapy, Mar2000, Vol. 5 Issue 1, p49, 10p

Abstract: This article reviews 75 scientific selected articles in the field of meditation, including Transcendental Meditation among others. It summarizes definitions of meditation, psychological and physiological changes, and negative side-effects encountered by 62.9% of meditators studied. While the authors did not restrict their study to TM, the side-effects reported were similar to those found in the "German Study" of Transcendental Meditators: relaxation-induced anxiety and panic; paradoxical increases in tension; less motivation in life; boredom; pain; impaired reality testing; confusion and disorientation; feeling 'spaced out'; depression; increased negativity; being more judgmental; feeling addicted to meditation; uncomfortable kinaesthetic sensations; mild dissociation; feelings of guilt; psychosis-like symptoms; grandiosity; elation; destructive behavior; suicidal feelings; defenselessness; fear; anger; apprehension; and despair.

Official recommendations in the US:

Side Effects and Risks

Meditation is considered to be safe for healthy people. There have been rare reports that meditation could cause or worsen symptoms in people who have certain psychiatric problems, but this question has not been fully researched. People with physical limitations may not be able to participate in certain meditative practices involving physical movement. Individuals with existing mental or physical health conditions should speak with their health care providers prior to starting a meditative practice and make their meditation instructor aware of their condition.

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Can you provide a reference for this claim? –  jona Sep 1 '14 at 22:43
In the press:… –  Erwan Legrand Sep 4 '14 at 14:58
I'm ignoring all the non-scientific references here. The two halfway proper ones the last two) obviously do not support the claims you're making (that depressed people should not meditate); rather, if at all, they're claiming the opposite. Please change your answer appropriately. –  jona Sep 4 '14 at 15:55
E.g., "mindfulness meditation used for stress reduction based on the skills of attentional control achieved positive effects for maintenance and relapse prevention of depression" from the meta-analysis. –  jona Sep 4 '14 at 15:57
@jona I agree that this answer requires a complete rewrite. I did say from the very beginning that meditation was used for the prevention of relapses. That is not the same thing as practising meditation while suffering from depression! –  Erwan Legrand Sep 5 '14 at 10:49

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