Researchers find Transcendental Meditation Helps cure PTSD


A study conducted by the Maharishi University of Management found Transcendental Meditation helps soldiers overcome PTSD.

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), once called shell shock or battle fatigue syndrome is a mental health condition that’s provoked by witnessing or experiencing an excruciating or devastating event.

Most people who go through harrowing events experience fear, anger or shock for a short period of time. However, for a person suffering from PTSD, these emotions keep on increasing, leading to nightmares, anxiety, nervousness or flashbacks. It becomes difficult for them to continue with normal day to day activities.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that PTSD besets: 31% of Vietnam veterans, 10% of Gulf War veterans, 11% of veterans of Afghanistan and 20% of Iraq war veterans.

The Current Treatment methods for PTSD

At present, PTSD is generally treated by Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT), Prolonged Exposure Therapy (PET) and Medication.

Cognitive Processing Therapy is used to evaluate and change trauma-related thoughts. It helps individuals recover from such thoughts by talking or writing in detail about what happened. It is a 12-week course with weekly sessions of 60-90 minutes.

Prolonged Exposure Therapy helps individuals face their fear by recounting experienced trauma. This therapy uses virtual reality programs that allow the individual to re-enter the setting in which they experienced the trauma and face it. It involves 8-15 sessions of 90 minutes each.

Medication for PTSD is either in the form of antidepressants – which may help ameliorate depression-related problems, improve sleep problems and  increase concentration – or anti-anxiety medication – which may help relieve anxiety – though they are generally given for a short period of time as they have the potential for abuse.

Transcendental Meditation and PTSD

Recently, a study conducted by the Maharishi University of Management suggested that Transcendental Meditation may help soldiers overcome PTSD.

Transcendental meditation (TM) was developed by the spiritual leader Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in the mid-1950s from the ancient Vedic traditions of India. It is an effortless form of meditation where an individual silently thinks of a mantra and just focuses on it and nothing else.

The individual can choose his own mantra and not share it with anyone else. Generally, the mantra used in transcendental meditation is ‘OM’. It can also be any religious word, a goal that someone wants to accomplish or some fear that a person is trying to overcome.

Transcendental meditation is usually practiced for 15-20 minutes twice a day. The practitioner sits down in a meditative position with closed eyes and thinks about the chosen word.

Regular practice of Transcendental meditation helps to ‘transcend’ the ordinary thinking and replace it with a state of pure consciousness where rest and stability are achieved. It is a state of restful alertness.

Transcendental meditation was introduced in USA in the 1960s and is practiced by a number of celebrities including Oprah, Katy Perry, and Stella McCartney. It is now practiced worldwide and claims to cure mental health issues like anxiety, depression, insomnia, and high blood pressure.

Research published in The Lancet Psychiatry, split 203 veterans diagnosed with PTSD between groups practicing transcendental meditation, prolonged exposure therapy and health education classes. The meditation group received 90 minutes of weekly classes along with daily practice at home. The researchers found that 61% of veterans showed more improvement than the other two groups. The symptoms of PTSD reduced by an average of 14.6% compared to 8.7% for those who received prolonged exposure therapy.

Dr. Sanford Nidich, of the Maharishi University of Management, who led the study said, “Because trauma exposure can be difficult for patients, similarly effective treatments that do not require exposure such as transcendental meditation could be appealing to veterans and other groups with PTSD.”

Commenting on the findings, Dr Vernon Barnes of Augusta University, Georgia, said, “More than a third of patients with PTSD do not recover even after many years, showing PTSD to be a chronic and costly illness to service members, their families, and society as a whole.” He further added, “When patients with PTSD do not respond to traditional treatment, new approaches should be considered.”