Exposure to a life-threatening or horrifying event, such as combat trauma, can lead to the development of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
The typical symptoms of PTSD include intense fear, hopelessness or horror, re-experiencing the trauma, avoidance, and oversensitive feelings.
In US military veterans, the PTSD ratio in the Vietnam War is about 2% to 17%, 12.6% for those who fought in Iraq and 6.2% for those who fought in Afghanistan.
Unfortunately, more than 33% of PTSD patients fail to recover even after many years, which means PTSD is a chronic disorder and costly illness to veterans, their families, and society.
In a study published in Military Medicine, researchers find that transcendental meditation can help treat PTSD in active duty service members.
Researchers from Georgia Regents University and Eisenhower Army Medical Center conducted the study. They selected patient records of active duty service members diagnosed with PSTD from the medical center.
A total of 74 patients agreed to participate in the study. Half of them practiced the transcendental meditation in addition to their other therapy; half did not.
Transcendental meditation is a method for detaching oneself from anxiety. It can develop harmony and self-realization via mantra yoga and other yogic practices.
At one month of meditation practice, 84% of patients stabilized, educed or stopped to use psychotropic drugs to treat their PTSD, while 11% increased their drug use.
For patients who did not do transcendental meditation, 60% stabilized, educed or stopped to use psychotropic drugs, while 40% increased their drug dosage.
Similar percentages held up in the following months and by 6 months. Non-meditators experienced about a 20% increase in their PSTD symptoms compared with those using the meditation practice.
Researchers suggest that people who regular practice transcendental meditation may develop a habit to calm down and heal the brain.
The meditation practice can take users from a level of active thinking to a state of inner quietness that reduces levels of stress hormones and lower activation of the sympathetic nervous system. The system drives the so-called fight-or-flight response by increasing heart rate and blood pressure.
Currently, PTSD is mainly treated with medication. In the near future, more research will be done to determine if a transcendental meditation program can be used as an adjunct for treatment of PTSD.
Citation: Barnes VA, et al. (2013). Clinical Case Series: Treatment of PTSD With Transcendental Meditation in Active Duty Military Personnel. Military Medicine, 178: e836-e840. DOI: 10.7205/MILMED-D-12-00426.
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