Transcendental Meditation can help ease PTSD symptoms: study
Students practice transcendental meditation at the Maharishi School of the Age of Enlightenment in Fairfield, Iowa Sept. 14, 2004. (AP /Charlie Neibergall)
Published Thursday, January 14, 2016 8:17AM EST
(Relaxnews) - A new American study supports previous research showing that Transcendental Meditation can help ease and even eliminate some of the most debilitating symptoms of anxiety disorders such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
After one month of practice, 83.7 per cent of meditators were able to stabilize, reduce or even stop their psychotropic medication.
Previous research showed the positive effects of meditation on Vietnam veterans, who were able to reduce their PTSD symptoms with no medication. However, this new study was carried out with active-duty personnel from the American army, many of whom had been deployed several times over several years.
The study confirms and supports previous evidence that Transcendental Meditation can be used to treat cases of PTSD, whose symptoms include headaches plus sleep, mood and memory problems.
Researchers followed 74 active-duty soldiers returning from several years' service in Iraq and seeking treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder or anxiety disorder at the Dwight David Eisenhower Army Medical Center's Traumatic Brain Injury Clinic at Fort Gordon, Georgia. Half of the soldiers were asked to practice Transcendental Meditation while continuing their regular medication and therapy. The other half maintained their regular treatment.
After one month, 83.7 per cent of meditating soldiers had stabilized, reduced or stopped their use of psychotropic drugs, while 10.9 per cent had increased their dosage of medication. The meditators claimed to be less irritable and have better sleep and improved social relations.
Among the soldiers who did not meditate, 59.4 per cent had stabilized, reduced or stopped taking psychotropic drugs, while 40.5 per cent were taking increased amounts of medication. After six months, the non-meditators' symptoms increased by 20 per cent compared with the meditators.
Specialists recommend that PTSD sufferers follow two 20-minute meditation sessions per day. According to Dr Vernon A. Barnes, a physiologist at the Georgia Prevention Institute at the Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University, meditation helps take patients from a state of active thinking (remembering and reliving dangers) to a state of inner calm. This reduces levels of stress hormones and reduces activation of the sympathetic nervous system, responsible for increasing heart rate and blood pressure for a "fight-or-flight" response.
Unlike psychotropic medication -- which researchers claim has only a 30 per cent response rate when used to treat PTSD and anxiety disorders -- Transcendental Meditation has no side effects. Some experts now consider that the technique should be a frontline treatment for difficult cases.
According to specialists, meditation helps to break the hypervigilant state of mind and constant perception of strangers as dangers. These soon become essential reflexes in a war zone, but they can have devastating effects on soldiers' social lives.