Transcendental Meditation Adverse Effects | Does it Have a Negative Side?

Transcendental Meditation Adverse Effects | Does it Have a Negative Side?

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Though not experienced by everyone, some individuals practicing TM report physical side effects, including headaches, dizziness, fatigue, hypertension and weakness. The prevalence and severity of these side effects remain a subject of ongoing research. Additionally, it’s important to acknowledge that TM is not suitable for everyone and may require adjustments to better align with an individual’s unique needs and lifestyle. Though transcendental meditation offers numerous benefits for some individuals, it is crucial the meditator be aware of the potential drawbacks and make informed decisions when exploring this practice.

Adverse Effects of Transcendental Meditation

Anxiety and Increased Stress

Transcendental Meditation (TM) is known to promote relaxation and reduce stress. However, in some cases, individuals may experience increased anxiety or stress due to various factors. These factors can include unrealistic expectations, improper meditation techniques, or lack of guidance from experienced teachers. It is important to address these concerns and seek professional guidance to ensure effective practice.

Depersonalization and Derealization

Depersonalization and derealization can occur as unwanted effects in some cases. These phenomena involve a sense of detachment from oneself or one’s surroundings. While these experiences are not common among TM practitioners, it is essential to be aware of such possibilities and discuss them with a qualified teacher if they arise.

Negative Emotions and Antisocial Behavior

Practice of TM may bring up unresolved emotional issues, leading to negative emotions such as anger, sadness, or frustration. In some instances, individuals may exhibit antisocial behavior as a result. Adequate emotional support and guidance from experienced teachers can help address and manage these concerns.

Dizziness and Fatigue

Meditation can, in rare cases, cause physical side effects such as dizziness and fatigue. Although these side effects are not common, it is important to be aware of them and to consult with a meditation teacher or healthcare professional if they persist. In summary, while Transcendental Meditation has numerous benefits, it’s crucial to be aware of potential adverse effects. Practicing TM with proper guidance, realistic expectations, and consistent monitoring can help minimize these unwanted effects and enhance the overall meditation experience.

Safety and Precautions


Transcendental meditation (TM) is generally considered safe for most individuals. However, there may be contraindications for those with pre-existing mental health conditions or a history of psychosis. Research has documented instances of adverse effects, such as:

  • Attempted suicide
  • Schizophrenic breakdowns
  • Severe depression

Individuals with a history of mental illness should consult a mental health professional before beginning a TM practice. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) also cautions individuals with pre-existing physical conditions to seek expert guidance before engaging in meditation.

Managing Unwanted Effects

If adverse effects arise during or after practicing transcendental meditation, the following steps can be taken to manage unwanted outcomes:

  1. Discontinuing meditation practice: Temporarily or permanently stopping the meditation practice may help alleviate negative symptoms.
  2. Seeking medical assistance: In cases of severe symptoms or if pre-existing conditions worsen, it is essential to consult a healthcare professional for appropriate guidance and treatment.
  3. Mindfulness: Being aware of one’s thoughts and emotions during meditation can help in identifying and addressing any uncomfortable experiences. Practicing mindfulness can support mental well-being and growth.

Although some individuals might experience physical side effects such as headaches, dizziness, or fatigue, these are not universal. It’s important to remember that not everyone practicing TM will encounter these unwanted effects, and more research is needed to determine their incidence. In conclusion, individuals considering transcendental meditation should be aware of potential adverse effects and take the necessary precautions, especially if they have a history of mental health issues or pre-existing health conditions.

Comparisons to Other Meditation Types

Mindfulness-Based Interventions

Transcendental meditation (TM) has shown different effects on the brain and mental health when compared to mindfulness-based interventions. TM is more focused on mantra repetition and achieving a quiet, relaxed state of mind, whereas mindfulness-based interventions encourage present moment awareness and non-judgmental observation of thoughts and emotions. TM has been found to be more effective in reducing psychophysiological arousal and trait anxiety compared to other forms of relaxation and meditation, including mindfulness-based practices1.

Focused Attention and Body Awareness

Compared to focused attention and body awareness practices, TM utilizes a unique approach in its meditation technique. Focused attention involves concentrating on specific objects, sensations, or thoughts, whereas body awareness practices involve paying attention to bodily sensations, such as the breath, in a more holistic manner. In contrast, TM relies on the effortless repetition of a mantra to guide the practitioner into a state of deep relaxation. Studies have indicated that TM’s approach may lead to greater reductions in anxiety and increased positive mental health, as compared to these other techniques1.

Visualization and Movement

Visualization practices involve creating mental images and scenarios to achieve relaxation or specific goals, while movement-based meditation techniques, such as yoga and tai chi, combine physical postures and breath control to increase mindfulness and relaxation. Though these practices offer their own benefits and appeal to different individuals, TM has shown to be more effective in reducing anxiety, increasing self-actualization, and reducing alcohol, nicotine, and drug use1. This suggests that the unique techniques employed in TM may offer distinct advantages in certain outcomes when compared to visualization and movement-based practices. Given these comparisons, it should be noted that each meditation type, including TM and other practices such as mindfulness-based interventions, focused attention, body awareness, visualization, and movement-based techniques, can offer unique benefits for mental and physical well-being. The effectiveness of a meditation practice may vary depending on individual preferences and goals.

Research and Evidence

Meta-Analyses and Literature Reviews

A review of studies investigating the adverse effects (AEs) of meditation-interventions (MIs) and mind-body practices (MBPs) reveals that health-inhibiting AEs have been largely underreported, with more focus on health-enhancing benefits. Meta-analyses on transcendental meditation (TM) techniques have shown effectiveness in reducing trait anxiety, with the greatest effects observed in individuals with high anxiety.

Randomized Controlled Trials

While randomized controlled trials were excluded in the above-mentioned review, these studies are essential in providing evidence-based efficacy. Early research on transcriptomic effects has shown that long-term TM practice might have health benefits that grow with repeated practice. However, more randomized controlled trials are needed to establish a robust evidence base for TM’s potential adverse effects.

Case Reports

Case reports and anecdotal evidence suggest possible associations between TM practice and adverse effects. One study found that participants who dropped out of meditation classes reported fewer AEs than those who continued meditating, although no direct causation or relationship has been clearly established.

Speculative Hypotheses

Some hypothesize that alterations in brain patterns induced by transcendental meditation may be associated with adverse effects. Research in this area is still in its infancy, and more studies are necessary to understand these potential relationships. In summary, the literature on transcendental meditation’s adverse effects is limited, with most of the focus on the positive aspects of meditation. Further research is needed to explore the potential AEs and gain a more thorough understanding of the complete effects of TM practice.

Transcendental Meditation and Clinical Context

Psychotherapy and Mental Health Issues

Transcendental meditation (TM) is a well-known meditation technique that has been shown to provide various health benefits. However, it is essential to consider its potential adverse effects, particularly in the context of mental health issues. Some individuals may experience adverse effects such as increased anxiety symptoms or emotional imbalances after practicing TM. It is crucial for mental health professionals to be aware of these potential risks and ensure their clients proceed with caution when incorporating TM into their psychotherapy plans. Incorporating mindfulness, empathy, and compassion for oneself and others are essential elements in promoting mental well-being. These qualities can help individuals cope with psychological distress and enhance their overall mental health. While TM may foster these qualities, it is vital to monitor its suitability for each person’s unique needs.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a significant mental health issue that can result from exposure to traumatic events, leading to a range of symptoms such as intrusive memories and heightened arousal. Some research has suggested TM might be beneficial in alleviating PTSD symptoms. However, it is crucial to exercise caution when recommending TM to individuals with PTSD, as some may experience increased psychological distress during meditation as they confront their trauma memories. TM should be utilized in conjunction with traditional treatment approaches, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy or exposure therapy, under the guidance of a trained professional.

Psychological Distress

For some individuals, TM might lead to psychological distress, manifesting as symptoms such as:

  • Increased anxiety
  • Emotional instability
  • Negative emotions or intrusive thoughts

It is crucial to approach TM with caution, particularly when working with individuals who are prone to mental health issues or are currently experiencing psychological distress. Mental health professionals should emphasize the importance of self-awareness and adaptability when incorporating TM into their clients’ strategies for managing psychological distress. In summary, while TM can provide certain benefits for mental health, it is essential to consider its potential adverse effects, especially when used in conjunction with psychotherapy and other clinical contexts.

Factors Influencing Adverse Effects

Regularity and Duration

The extent to which one experiences adverse effects from transcendental meditation may depend on factors such as regularity and duration of practice. It has been observed that some individuals might experience increased sensitivity, anxiety, or other negative impacts when they meditate for long periods or engage in meditation more frequently. However, more research is needed to establish a clear relationship between meditation regularity, duration, and adverse effects.

Group Practice and Online Surveys

Another factor that can influence the manifestation of adverse effects is the context in which meditation is practiced. Group practice environments may produce different results compared to individual meditation sessions. For instance, peer influence and group dynamics may contribute to the intensity of meditation experiences and potentially lead to negative outcomes. Online surveys have been a useful tool in capturing information related to meditation-related adverse effects. Through these surveys, individuals can openly share their experiences, providing researchers with invaluable data to better understand the factors at play.

Multi-Cultural Studies

Multi-cultural studies can offer valuable insights into the potential adverse effects of transcendental meditation across diverse populations. Cultural differences may play a role in how individuals perceive and respond to meditative practices. Such studies can help identify patterns, risk factors, and protective factors that may exist within particular cultural contexts. They can also contribute to the development of culturally sensitive approaches to meditation practice, minimizing potential adverse effects.


Q: What is Transcendental Meditation (TM)?

A: Transcendental Meditation (TM) is a specific form of mantra meditation founded by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in the 1950s. It involves the use of a word or phrase, or mantra, to achieve a state of stillness and relaxation.

Q: Are there any negative side effects to TM?

A: There have been reports of adverse events associated with TM practice, such as increased anxiety, depression, and hypersensitivity to sensory stimuli. However, more research is needed to fully understand the potential risks.

Q: How does TM differ from other forms of meditation?

A: TM is a specific style of meditation that involves the use of a mantra, while other forms of meditation may involve different techniques such as mindfulness meditation or vedic meditation.

Q: What are some of the suggested benefits of TM?

A: TM has been suggested to have positive effects on both physical and mental health, including stress reduction, improved cardiovascular health, and reduced symptoms of PTSD in veterans.

Q: Has research been done on the effects of TM?

A: Yes, there have been numerous peer-reviewed studies on transcendental meditation, including a systematic review and meta-analysis which found that TM was more effective at reducing systolic and diastolic blood pressure than other forms of meditation.

Q: Are there any potential physiological side effects to TM?

A: Some studies investigating the effect of Transcendental Meditation have indicated that it may have a positive impact on physiological outcomes such as systolic and diastolic blood pressure. However, further research is needed to confirm these findings.

Q: What is the Transcendental Meditation program?

A: The Transcendental Meditation program involves receiving TM training from a certified instructor and practicing the technique on a regular basis.

Q: Who practices TM?

A: TM has been practiced by a wide range of individuals, including celebrities such as Oprah and Jerry Seinfeld.

Q: Is TM recommended by any health organizations?

A: The American Heart Association has suggested that meditation, including the Transcendental Meditation program, may be helpful as a complementary approach to lower systolic blood pressure. However, it is important to consult with a healthcare professional before beginning any new health regimen.

Q: What are some potential risks associated with TM?

A: While there are numerous benefits of TM reported in the literature, there have also been reports of negative side effects such as increased anxiety or depression. It is important to weigh the potential risks and benefits before beginning a new practice.

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