Transcendental meditation may reduce PTSD symptoms including depression, insomnia

FAIRFIELD, Iowa — PTSD is a particularly terrible affliction, especially if an individual doesn’t get the care and treatment they need. A new study finds transcendental meditation (TM) can be quite effective at treating Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Researchers from Maharishi International University say the therapy can help alleviate symptoms such as depression, insomnia, and anxiety.

After a group of veterans dealing with PTSD practiced transcendental meditation for three months, 50 percent no longer met the medical criteria for PTSD diagnosis. In comparison, only 10 percent of a control group achieved the same results.

“Transcendental Meditation is a non-trauma-focused, easy-to-learn technique that was found in this study to improve PTSD symptoms, likely through the experience of physical rest,” says principal study investigator Mayer Bellehsen, Ph.D., director of the Unified Behavioral Health Center for Military Veterans and their Families, Northwell Health, in a media release.

“In contrast to commonly administered therapies for PTSD that are trauma-focused and based on a patient’s recall of past traumatic experiences, this intervention does not require extensive review of traumatic history, which some individuals find difficult to engage in. This intervention may therefore be more tolerable for some individuals struggling with PTSD.”

Dramatic PTSD turnover for veterans

Forty veterans took part in this study. Half of those participants joined a meditation group while the other half entered a “treatment as usual” control group. Those in the meditation group attended 16 TM sessions over the course of 12 weeks. Researchers also assigned them “homework” of two daily practice sessions at home.

By the end of the three months, those using the meditation techniques showed significant reductions in trauma symptoms. Depression, anxiety, and insomnia troubles improved as well.

“This trial corroborates the findings of a large clinical trial published in The Lancet Psychiatry,” explains study co-investigator Sanford Nidich, Ed.D., Director of the Center for Social-Emotional Health at Maharishi International University Research Institute.

“The current study further supports the effectiveness of Transcendental Meditation as a first-line treatment for PTSD in veterans. The availability of an additional evidence-based therapy will benefit veterans, both by offering them a greater range of options and by serving as an alternative treatment strategy for those who don’t want to engage in trauma-focused treatment or who aren’t responding to a previous PTSD intervention.”

As far as why transcendental meditation helps with PTSD, study authors theorize meditation may reduce hyper-arousal symptoms. Earlier research shows meditation can both diminish physiological responses to stress and help practitioners develop more robust coping skills.

The study is published in the Journal of Traumatic Stress.