An 8-week course of stress-reducing Transcendental Meditation resulted in a 50% reduction in PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) symptoms among Iraq/Afghanistan veterans, researchers reported in Military Medicine. The pilot study involved five veterans aged 25 to 40 years with PTSD symptoms – they had all served between 10 and 24 months and had been involved in moderate or heavy moderate combat.

The researchers, from Georgetown University Medical School, explained that Transcendental Meditation resulted in considerable reductions in stress and depression, and clear relationships improvements. The participants’ overall quality of life improved.

All the veterans accepted the course well – which is easy to perform.

CAPS (Clinician Administered PTSD Scale) was the main measure for determining how effective Transcendental Meditation was for PTSD symptoms. CAPS is seen as the gold standard by the Department of Veterans Affairs in assessing and diagnosing PTSD for both civilian trauma survivors and military veterans.

Senior researcher, Norman Rosenthal, M.D., was the first to describe SAD (seasonal affective disorder). He pioneered the use of light therapy for patients with SAD.

Rosenthal said:

“Even though the number of veterans in this study was small, the results were very impressive. These young men were in extreme distress as a direct result of trauma suffered during combat, and the simple and effortless Transcendental Meditation technique literally transformed their lives.”

This latest study had similar findings to a randomized controlled one of Vietnam veterans which took place at the University of Colorado School of Medicine in 1985. That study, published in the Journal of Counseling and Development found that participants had fewer symptoms after undergoing three months of twice-daily Transcendental Meditation practice, compared to those who received conventional psychotherapy. The majority of those who took part in Transcendental Meditation did not need any further treatment.

Co-researcher, Sarina Grosswald, EdD, said:

“Even though the combat experiences of OEF/OIF veterans and Vietnam veterans are quite different, the fact that our study corroborates the results of the previous study tells us that this technique has the potential to be an effective tool against PTSD and combat stress, regardless of combat situation.”

Rosenthal said:

“Transcendental Meditation quiets down the nervous system, and slows down the ‘fight-or-flight’ response.”

PTSD patients have an overactive flght-or-flight response. Hence, they are ideal candidates for Transcendental Meditation.

Veterans with combat-related PTSD urgently need effective and inexpensive therapies for their condition, Rosenthal stressed.

Rosenthal added:

“The condition is common, affecting an estimated one in seven deployed soldiers and Marines, most of whom do not get adequate treatment. So far, only one treatment – simulation exposure to battleground scenes – has been deemed effective, but it requires specialized software and hardware, trained personnel and is labor intensive.

“Based on our study and previous findings, I believe Transcendental Meditation certainly warrants further study for combat-related PTSD.”

Written by Christian Nordqvist