Paris: Transcendental meditation – the practice of thinking without effort – may be just as effective in treating PTSD in conflict veterans as traditional therapy, US researchers said Friday, in findings that could help tens of thousands of people face their trauma.
Post traumatic stress disorder, a debilitating condition that can cause psychosis, bipolar disorder or suicidal thoughts and murder, affects around 14 percent of US veterans serving in Iraq or Afghanistan.
The most common treatment for PTSD is a process known as prolonged exposure psychotherapy, which forces patients to re-experience traumatic events by facing their memories of conflict.
Researchers from three US universities decided to find out whether everyday techniques, which help civilians reduce their stress levels and increase focus and productivity, will work for traumatized veterans.
They examined 203 former soldiers and women with PTSD, most of whom received treatment for their symptoms, and randomly gave them transcendental meditation courses, prolonged exposure therapy or special PTSD health education classes.
They found that 60 percent of veterans who did quiet meditation for 20 minutes each day showed significant improvement in their symptoms, and more complemented the study than those who were given exposure therapy.
"Over the past 50 years, PTSD has developed into a significant public health problem," Sanford Nidich, from the Maharishi Institute of Management Research Institute, told AFP.
"Due to the increasing need to address the public health care problems of PTSD in the US, the UK and around the world, there is an urgent need to implement government policies to include alternative therapies such as transcendental meditation as an option to treat veterans with PTSD."
Transcendental meditation involves easily thinking of an idea or mantra to produce a calm and calm state of mind – scientists call it "calm alertness".
Unlike exposure therapy, meditation can be practiced at home, requires relatively little time, and researchers say it will be much cheaper than current treatment techniques.
It also avoids forcing combat veterans to revive their trauma in an effort to get better.
"Transcendental meditation is self-empowerment, and can be practiced anywhere at any time, without the need for special equipment or ongoing personnel support," said Nidich, who is the lead author of the study published in the journal The Lancet Psychiatry.
& # 39; Give me my life back & # 39;
The main problem with existing PTSD treatment, according to Nidich, is that forcing veterans to revive their trauma means that many never complete the course.
Exposure therapy, although officially approved as a treatment by the United States Veterans Association, is not effective in up to 50 percent of patients and drop-out rates range from 30-45 percent.
"New treatments, including choices that do not involve exposure to traumatic experiences, are needed for veterans who do not respond to treatment or drop-out because of discomfort," said Nidich.
A study participant, a 32-year-old naval veteran who was identified only as Ms. K, said learning meditation techniques had "given me my life back."
After being diagnosed with sexual trauma while undergoing military service, his symptoms worsened until he drank excess excess every night and tried to avoid human interaction.
After the transcendental meditation course, "I began to come out of nightmares and face the battles I faced," he said.
He added that he had applied for a job at the hospital.
The researchers say further research is needed to see whether meditation can be a long-term aid for people with PTSD.