News Release

Accepting anxiety for peace of mind

Meditation therapy effective in reducing suffering for anorexia patients

Peer-Reviewed Publication

Kyoto University

Mindfully accepting anxiety

image: The process of Mindfulness meditation and brain regions with reduced activity after the Mindfulness program. view more 

Credit: KyotoU / Robin Hoshino

Kyoto, Japan -- Sadly, our family members, friends, and celebrities have suffered from anorexia nervosa, or AN. This eating disorder is characterized by abnormally low body weight, food restriction, and voluntary vomiting, frequently induced by a distorted perception of weight or self-image.

Mindfulness meditation has already become a globally recognized method for addressing a variety of mental issues. Its effectiveness in clinically treating anorexia nervosa, however, was not sufficiently studied.

A team of researchers at Kyoto University's Graduate School of Medicine has now found that mindfulness meditation may reduce weight-related anxieties of AN patients. Results from the study show changes in the activity of brain regions involved in anxiety: emotion arousal, self-referential processing, and obsession. The team's mindfulness meditation program has also significantly decreased subjective anxiety.

"Our results suggest that the participants in the study became better at accepting their anxiety as it is," says lead author Tomomi Noda.

Mindfulness meditation cultivates awareness of the practitioners' present experience and their ability to not judge and rather accept their experiences despite any discomfort.

"We focused on the possibility that the mindfulness approach alleviates crippling anxieties about weight gain and self-image in patients with AN," adds co-author Masanori Isobe and Shisei Tei.

Mindfulness meditation was used to mitigate this anxiety by helping patients accept their anxieties, instead of avoiding them. A four-week mindfulness-based intervention program examined neural changes using tasks designed to induce weight-related anxiety.

The researchers used functional magnetic resonance imaging -- or fMRI -- to analyze the potential effects of emotion regulation via mindfulness, and the results supported their predictions.

"Given the fact that several global events, such as the Covid-19 pandemic and the Russo-Ukraine War, may induce anxiety in AN patients, further research is urgently needed for developing effective therapy," adds Noda.

"We anticipate practical implications of our results in clinical psychiatry and psychology and broader research into mitigating suffering through mindfulness, using the strategy of self-acceptance," concludes group leader Toshiya Murai.


The paper "Neural correlates of a mindfulness-based intervention in anorexia nervosa" will appear on 2 February 2023 in BJPsych OPEN, with doi: 10.1192/bjo.2022.637

Youtube videos:

1-What Are Eating Disorders?

2-The Aim of Our Mindfulness Study Project

About Kyoto University

Kyoto University is one of Japan and Asia's premier research institutions, founded in 1897 and responsible for producing numerous Nobel laureates and winners of other prestigious international prizes. A broad curriculum across the arts and sciences at both undergraduate and graduate levels is complemented by numerous research centers, as well as facilities and offices around Japan and the world. For more information please see:


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