Study finds Transcendental Meditation effective in reducing PTSD

Many people are aware of the soothing effect meditation has for the mind and a recent study adds to the benefits it has suggests that the veterans with PTSD who practised the Transcendental Meditation technique showed significant reductions in PTSD symptom severity. The findings of the novel study published today in the Journal of Traumatic Stress.

Fifty per cent of the meditating veterans no longer met the criteria for PTSD after three months compared to only 10 per cent of controls. The randomized controlled study also showed significant reductions in veterans symptoms of depression and anxiety, and sleep difficulties.

Mayer Bellehsen, Ph.D., director of the Unified Behavioral Health Center for Military Veterans and their Families, Northwell Health, and study principal investigator said, transcendental Meditation is a non-trauma focused easy to learn technique that was found in this study to improve PTSD symptoms, likely through the experience of physical rest. In contrast to commonly administered therapies for PTSD that are trauma-focused and based on a patient’s recall of past traumatic experiences, this intervention does not require extensive review of traumatic history, which some individuals find difficult to engage in. This intervention may therefore be more tolerable for some individuals struggling with PTSD.

The randomized controlled trial conducted at Northwell Health in Bay Shore, New York, assigned 40 veterans with documented PTSD to either the Transcendental Meditation (TM) group or the treatment as a usual control group. The TM treatment provided 16 sessions over 12 weeks, with twice-a-day daily home practice. PTSD symptom severity was assessed with the Clinician-Administered PTSD Scale for DSM-5 (CAPS-5), and patient self-report with the PTSD Checklist for DSM -5 (PCL-5).

The results showed large effect sizes, indicating a strong TM treatment impact in reducing trauma symptoms for both PTSD measures. Other factors associated with trauma, such as depression and anxiety symptoms and sleep problems, also showed a strong impact of TM treatment.

Sanford Nidich, Ed.D., Director of the Center for Social-Emotional Health at Maharishi International University Research Institute, and study co-investigator said, this trial corroborates the findings of a large clinical trial published in The Lancet Psychiatry. The current study further supports the effectiveness of Transcendental Meditation as a first line treatment for PTSD in veterans. The availability of an additional evidence based therapy will benefit veterans, both by offering them a greater range of options and by serving as an alternative treatment strategy for those who don’t want to engage in trauma-focused treatment or who aren’t responding to a previous PTSD intervention.

The authors point out in their research paper that TM may positively affect trauma symptom severity through the reduction of hyperarousal symptoms. Previous research has shown that TM practise decreases physiological responses to stressful stimuli. In addition, recent research indicates that TM may improve resilience and positive coping strategies, providing further benefit to both veterans and active military personnel.

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