Meditation for Veterans with PTSD

Instances of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) have been documented as far back as 490 BC. In America, it has been a prevalent issue among returning veterans since before the Vietnam War. The anxiety related disorder is not limited to veterans, it also affects people who have experienced an event often relating to injury, death or psychological trauma. However, it’s estimated that one in seven of deployed soldiers suffer from PTSD. Treatment for PTSD has come in many forms, including prescription drugs and psychotherapy. These primary tactics have shown improvement and recovery in some, but largely leave veterans without viable solutions. Over the years, research has been conducted and shown that meditation for veterans with PTSD is an effective treatment and affordable rehabilitation option.

In 1985, Denver Vietnam Veterans Outreach Program enrolled 18 random patients seeking treatment for Post-Vietnam Adjustment, a particular form of PTSD, in a three-month research project of meditation versus psychotherapy. Patients were measured on stress, anxiety, depression, alcohol use, insomnia, employment status and family problems. The meditation group showed marked improvement and success in all these areas, outperforming the psychotherapy group, which demonstrated no significant improvements.

More recently, a pilot study had five Iraq and Afghanistan male veterans, with moderately severe combat-related PTSD, practice meditation twice daily for three months. All of the veterans showed significant reductions in PTSD symptoms, improvements in sleep and communication and significant increases in quality-of-life measures. According to Norman Rosenthal, MD, PTSD symptoms improved by 50 percent. The study also included that PTSD’s cost to society “ranges from $4 to 6.2 billion over 2 years.”

Filmmaker David Lynch is a firm believer in the healing power of meditation. He created the David Lynch Foundation, a charitable organization to fund and support the beneficial effects of meditation. To help veterans overcome stress-related disorders, Lynch formed the meditation-based program, “Operation Warrior Wellness.” The program has helped build a network of support and information for veterans with PTSD, plus it shares numerous success stories about veterans using meditation for PTSD.

An article by Lynch proposes a scientific basis for the observed benefits of meditation for combat-related PTSD. He says meditation buffers fight-or-flight responses, which are thought to be overactive in people with PTSD. The article also states that meditation has been found to reduce blood pressure and decrease the risk of heart attacks and strokes—other conditions in which an overactive fight-or-flight response may play a role.

Overall, research shows that meditation can help alleviate symptoms of combat-related PTSD in veterans and decrease hypertension, substance abuse, depression and lower reactions to stress. Meditation for veterans PTSD is easy to perform, affordable, has no adverse side effects and can be practiced anywhere.

Recovery from PTSD takes time, but including daily meditation into the treatment process and thereafter can provide long-term recovery and regained happiness in veterans.


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