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PTSD: Transcendental Meditation May Reduce Symptoms, Medication Use In Active-Duty Soldiers (VIDEO)

First Posted: Jan 11, 2016 11:53 AM EST
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A research team from Georgia Regents University has found that the practice of Transcendental Meditation, or TM, can help soldiers and active-duty personnel deal with the symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, commonly known as PTSD, as well as lowering their need to take medication.

Transcendental Meditation is a form of meditation that "involves no concentration, no control of the mind, no contemplation, no monitoring of thoughts," according to the TM website. It is meant to take users to a state of inner quiet in order to reduce stress hormone levels and the activation of the sympathetic nervous system - which increases the heart rate and blood pressure, driving the fight-or-flight response.

"[TM] doesn't focus on breathing or chanting, like other forms of meditation. Instead, it encourages a restful state of mind beyond thinking...A 2009 study found [TM] helped alleviate stress in college students, while another found it helped reduce blood pressure, anxiety, depression and anger," according to the Cleveland Clinic.

The study, published in Military Medicine, examined 74 active-duty personnel suffering from PTSD or anxiety disorders - many of which were a result of multiple deployments - who sought treatment for these conditions at the Dwight D. Eisenhower Army Medical Center's Traumatic Brain Injury Clinic, located in Fort Gordan, Ga.

Participants were divided into two groups, half of which utilized TM regularly in addition to their other therapies, while the other half did not. After a month, 83.7 percent of those who practiced the meditation had either stabilized, reduced or stopped their psychotropic drug use. Medication doses increased for only 10.9 percent of the participants, according to a news release.

Meanwhile, 59.4 percent of the non-meditators had stabilized, reduced or stopped their drugs, but 40.5 percent had increased their doses. Over the following months, these percentages held up. By six months, those who did not meditate saw a 20 percent increase in their symptoms when compared to those using TM.

Many of the participants had experienced multiple concussions during their time in the wars, which result in headaches, as well as sleep, mood and memory issues, according to Dr. John L. Rigg, a physiatrist and the program director at the TBI Clinic.

"Concussions heal, but this is a unique concussion because it happened when somebody was trying to kill them," Rigg said. "It's not like you or I were riding bikes on the weekend and fell down and hit our head. There is significant emotional trauma, hyperarousal of basic instincts of survival. They are having a normal reaction to an abnormal situation, which is being in an environment where somebody is trying to kill them on a daily basis."

Dr. Vernon A. Barnes, a physiologist at the Georgia Prevention Insititute at the Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University, said that "Regular practice of Transcendental Meditation provides a habit of calming down and healing the brain." Barnes teaches the TBI Clinic patients TM, and recommends 20 minutes of meditation, done twice daily.

PTSD is a danger to soldiers, as it puts them into a state of hyperactivity, making them irritable, anxious, on edge, and prone to overreactions. This can cause memory problems and can make "Even going to a crowded restaurant for dinner...problematic," Rigg said. He says the sufferers experience the echo of the "strangers are dangers" warzone mantra playing over and over in their heads.

Originally, there was skepticism, but according to Barnes, there is now a waiting list at the TBI Clinic for his course on TM. Rigg says that other mind-body techniques, like yoga, can help give way to TM - as it is still not considered a "frontline treatment."

Post Traumatic Stress has been developed by at least 20 percent of the 2.7 million U.S. veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, while four out of five surviving Vietnam veterans have developed the disorder, according to Veterans and PTSD. This has been attributed to the rise into the veteran suicide rate, which in 2008 surpassed the civilian rate of 19.2 per 100,000 per year (the veteran rate is 20.2), with roughly 22 veterans taking their lives per day.

And PTSD doesn't just affect soldiers. Roughly 70 percent of U.S. adults experience a traumatic event at some point in their lives, and about 20 percent of them will go on to develop PTSD because of it, according to PTSD United.

Below is a video from the TM website displaying this technique in use by soldiers.

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