Transcendental meditation may reduce PTSD, study finds

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Veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) who practiced transcendental meditation showed significant reductions in symptom severity, according to a new study published in the Journal of Traumatic Stress.

For the randomized controlled study, 40 veterans with documented PTSD were assigned to either the transcendental meditation group or treatment as usual control group. The transcendental meditation 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).

Fifty percent of the meditating veterans no longer met criteria for PTSD after three months compared to only 10 percent of controls. The study also showed significant reductions in symptoms of depression, anxiety, and sleep difficulties. The results showed large effect sizes, indicating a strong transcendental meditation treatment impact in reducing trauma symptoms for both PTSD measures.

According to Mayer Bellehsen, PHD, principal investigator of the study and director of the Unified Behavioral Health Center for Military Veterans and their Families at Northwell Health, transcendental meditation is a non-trauma-focused, easy-to-learn technique that utilizes 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.

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