A new study found that regular practice of transcendental meditation can alleviate post-traumatic stress disorder in active-duty members of the military and in some cases can allow them to reduce or stop taking medication for their PTSD symptoms.
Although the idea was initially greeted with skepticism, practitioners who added this type of meditation as a treatment skill for PTSD experienced positive results and the programs have increased in popularity. The study was conducted by researchers at the Dwight Eisenhower Army Medical Center's Traumatic Brain Injury Clinic and Augusta University in Georgia.
Researchers taught service members to meditate as part of their recovery from concussions as well as PTSD symptoms. Mindfulness meditation has often been used as a treatment for issues with depression or anxiety and now it is increasingly discussed as in the context of PTSD and its treatment.
PTSD Symptoms and Medication
Veterans with PTSD are usually provided with medication which can help about 30 percent of patients. However, previous studies have shown that transcendental meditation can help tune out distractions and create a state of inner quietness that helps reduce stress hormones.
Many health care providers hesitate to take patients off drugs in favor of meditation but the transcendental technique has been shown to reduce the anxious, hyperactive state military members experience as part of their condition. Veterans in the program have experienced not only physical trauma such as concussions but also significant emotional trauma and hyper-arousal of basic instincts of survival.
Patients with PTSD often experience flashbacks of traumatic events making them relive the trauma over and over again including the physical symptoms associated with it such as a racing heart or sweating.
They can also have recurring dreams and nightmares that lead to insomnia. Most PTSD patients have significant anxiety and can engage in avoidant behavior so that they are not reminded of their traumatic experiences.
Positive Results from Meditation
During the study, researchers looked at 74 service members with PTSD or anxiety disorder who were receiving treatment at the clinic. Half of the group voluntarily practiced transcendental meditation in addition to their other therapies and the other half did not.
After one month, 83.7 percent of the meditation group had stabilized, decreased or stopped taking medication while 10.9 percent increased their medication dosage. Within the non-meditation group, 59.4 percent had stabilized, decreased or stopped using drugs while 40.5 percent increased the dosage of their medication.
The researchers also reported that there was a 20.5 percent difference between the groups in the severity of the symptoms six months into the study with the non-meditation group seeing an increase in symptoms during that time. The results of the study show that transcendental meditation can have a significantly positive effect on patients receiving regular treatment for PTSD and it can provide them enough stabilization to reduce their medication in many cases.
One of the reasons meditation is used as a treatment method for mental illnesses like depression, anxiety or PTSD is that it can lead to a greater awareness and acceptance of potentially distressing cognitive and emotional states. It can help people with PTSD become more aware of trauma-related internal and external triggers.
Meditation helps patients accept their feelings or reactions without judgement so that they can reduce arousal and foster emotional regulation. It is especially useful for people with PTSD because it can help decrease experiential avoidance which can be a persistent problem as patients attempt to avoid situations, places or people that trigger memories of their trauma.
Overall, the awareness that is developed through meditation has been proven to help reduce some of the more severe symptoms of PTSD and it can be a useful tool for veterans receiving treatment for this disorder.
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