PSU Abington professor raises awareness of meditation sickness through research project

Pierce Salguero, professor of Asian history and health humanities at Penn State Abington, wants to raise awareness of meditation sickness and its possible solutions and interventions among the general public, PSU News reported.

Two gifts totaling $50,000 are kicking off his research, which focuses on the diagnosis and treatment of meditation-related adverse effects, long known in East Asia as meditation sickness. The support for investigating this largely obscure occurrence in practitioners of intensive meditation has been provided by the Institute for East-West Medicine and its founder and president, Dr. Raymond Chang. 

Psychiatric studies have demonstrated that meditation can lead some people to encounter acute psychological imbalances or psychosomatic ailments. The rise in its popularity, coupled with the lack of widespread knowledge about or support for potentially negative outcomes, makes the adverse effects of meditation an urgent topic of scholarly investigation. 

“This phenomenon has been known for thousands of years in Buddhist cultures, but it is a story that just starting to emerge in the popular and scientific media,” said Salguero, professor of Asian history and health humanities.

He explained that it is normal for meditation to surface difficult memories, traumas, and anxieties, much like in therapeutic settings. 

“But the myth is that meditation is always relaxing and blissful. Adverse effects can be a normal part of the process that practitioners often don’t expect, but if they are not aware, they may think they should do more meditation to counteract their symptoms,” he said, which may not resolve the issues. 

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Photo credit: Penn State University