Transcendental meditation may help ease post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms in some soldiers and seems to reduce their need for medication, a new study finds.
“Regular practice of transcendental meditation provides a habit of calming down and healing the brain,” study lead author Vernon Barnes, a physiologist at the Georgia Prevention Institute at the Medical College of Georgia, said in a college news release.
The study included 74 active-duty U.S. military personnel with PTSD or other type of anxiety disorder. Half of them did regular transcendental meditation in addition to regular psychotherapy, and half did not.
After one month, nearly 84 percent of those in the meditation group had stopped, reduced or stabilized their use of drugs to treat their mental health conditions, while nearly 11 percent increased their use of the drugs.
In the non-meditation group, the percentages were about 59 percent and 41 percent, respectively.
The percentages in both groups remained the same in the following months. By the sixth month, those who did not meditate had a 20 percent greater increase in symptoms than those in the meditation group, according to the study published in the January issue of the journal Military Medicine.
The goal of transcendental meditation is to achieve a state of inner quietness that lowers stress hormone levels and activation of the sympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for the flight-or-fight response, the researchers explained.
When soldiers return home after deployment, this hypervigilant state of mind can continue and make them edgy, irritable, anxious and prone to overreaction, Barnes explained.
About 13 percent of U.S. troops deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan have PTSD, which often develops after experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event, the researchers said. People with PTSD may have flashbacks, nightmares and frightening thoughts that interfere with daily living.
The U.S. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health has more about meditation.