Veterans of the Iraq/Afghanistan wars showed a 50 percent reduction in their symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after just eight weeks of practicing the stress-reducing Transcendental Meditation technique, according to a pilot study published in the June 2011 issue of Military Medicine (Volume 176, Number 6).
The study evaluated five veterans, ages 25- to 40-years-old, who had served in Iraq, Afghanistan or both from 10 months to two years involving moderate or heavy moderate combat.
The study found that Transcendental Meditation produced significant reductions in stress and depression, and marked improvements in relationships and overall quality of life. Furthermore, the authors reported that the technique was easy to perform and was well accepted by the veterans.
The Clinician Administered PTSD Scale (CAPS) was the primary measure for assessing the effectiveness of TM practice on PTSD symptoms. CAPS is considered by the Department of Veterans Affairs as the "gold standard" for PTSD assessment and diagnosis for both military Veteran and civilian trauma survivors.
The paper's senior researcher, Norman Rosenthal, M.D., is clinical professor of psychiatry at Georgetown University Medical School and director of research at Capital Clinical Research Associates in Rockville, Maryland. Dr. Rosenthal was the first to describe seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and pioneered the use of light therapy as a treatment.
"Even though the number of veterans in this study was small, the results were very impressive," Rosenthal said. "These young men were in extreme distress as a direct result of trauma suffered during combat, and the simple and effortless Transcendental Meditation technique literally transformed their lives."
The findings were similar to those from a randomized controlled study of Vietnam veterans conducted by researchers at the University of Colorado School of Medicine. In that study, published in the Journal of Counseling and Development in 1985, after three months of twice-daily TM practice, the veterans had fewer symptoms than those receiving conventional psychotherapy of the day. In fact, most of the TM-treated subjects required no further treatment.
"Even though the combat experiences of OEF/OIF veterans and Vietnam veterans are quite different, the fact that our study corroborates the results of the previous study tells us that this technique has the potential to be an effective tool against PTSD and combat stress, regardless of combat situation," explained Sarina Grosswald, EdD, co-researcher on the study.
Rosenthal hypothesizes that Transcendental Meditation helps people with PTSD because regular practice produces long-term changes in sympathetic nervous system activity, as evidenced by decreased blood pressure, and lower reactivity to stress. "Transcendental Meditation quiets down the nervous system, and slows down the 'fight-or-flight' response," he said. People with PTSD show overactive fight-or-flight responses, making them excellent candidates for Transcendental Meditation.
Rosenthal points out that there is an urgent need to find effective and cost-effective treatments for veterans with combat-related PTSD. "The condition is common, affecting an estimated one in seven deployed soldiers and Marines, most of whom do not get adequate treatment. So far, only one treatment—simulation exposure to battleground scenes—has been deemed effective, but it requires specialized software and hardware, trained personnel and is labor intensive.
"Based on our study and previous findings, I believe Transcendental Meditation certainly warrants further study for combat-related PTSD," says Rosenthal.
Rosenthal is the author of a new book, “Transcendence: Healing and Transformation through Transcendental Meditation,” which will be released by Tarcher Penguin on June 2, 2011. For those wanting to interview Dr. Rosenthal, contact his publicist, Dean Draznin Communications, Inc., 641-472-2257, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- A new report paints a stark picture of the toll on the U.S. military of almost a decade of war: higher stress and lower morale. The report, released Thursday, May 19, 2011, at the Pentagon, relied on questions to soldiers and Marines in Afghanistan in July and August of last year and compared responses with similar surveys in 2005 and 2009. The report noted "significant decline in reports of individual morale" as well as "acute stress rates significantly higher" than in earlier years. Source: CNN: New Pentagon study finds psychological toll from years of fighting.
- "Research suggests that 18% to 30% of Vietnam veterans, 10% to 20% of Iraq War veterans, and 5% to 15% of Gulf War veterans have experienced PTSD," says U.S. Army Colonel Charles C Engel, Director of Deployment Health Clinical Center. Source: Britannica Blog: PTSD in War Veterans: 5 Questions for Psychiatrist and U.S. Army Col. Charles C. Engel.
- A May 8, 2008 report said the number of suicides among veterans of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan may exceed the combat death toll because of inadequate mental health care, the U.S. government's top psychiatric researcher said. Source: Bloomberg: Post-War Suicides May Exceed Combat Deaths, U.S. Says (Update1).
- VA's suicide hotline receives 10,000 calls per month from active and retired servicemen. There are 950 suicide attempts per month by veterans receiving care from the VA. 18 veterans commit suicide each day, 5 of them are under the care of the VA. Source: Army Times: 18 veterans commit suicide each day.
- Every night, an estimated 63,000 veterans lay down to sleep in a county jail. Source: Syracuse.com: The Post-Standard: Syracuse VA Medical Center visits county jails, searches for military veterans who need assistance.
- Each night, 107,000 veterans find their home on the street. Source: National Coalition for Homeless Veterans.
- 27% of returning OEF/OIF veterans meet criteria for alcohol abuse. Of returning soldiers, 20% of active duty and 42% of reservists are in need of mental health treatment. Source: NIDA: A Research Update from the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
- The Rand Corporation's study "Invisible Wounds of War" revealed a disturbing truth about the health of our military as recently as 2008: Over 300,000 returning veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan suffer from PTSD or major depression. According to the Rand report, these "invisible wounds" take a high toll—impacting veterans' quality of life, hindering their performance at work, straining their families, and placing them at greater risk for violent and self-destructive behaviors. The economic cost of these disorders is equally great—reaching as high as $6 billion over 2 years. Yet, despite the heavy toll of PTSD and depression, only half of affected veterans seek care, and only a third of those who do, receive adequate treatment. Thus, over 80% of affected veterans remain without needed help.
- Since October 31, 2007, over 1.6 million troops have been deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan. According to the Rand Corporation's study, 225,000 of the returning troops suffer from PTSD, 226,000 are diagnosed with major depression, and 303,000 develop either illness. Source: Rand Corporation: Invisible Wounds of War: Psychological and Cognitive Injuries, Their Consequences, and Services to Assist Recovery, 2008.
The Transcendental Meditation Technique
- The Transcendental Meditation technique is an effortless technique practiced 10-20 minutes twice a day sitting comfortably with the eyes closed.
- TM is not a religion or philosophy and involves no new beliefs or change in lifestyle.
- Over 350 peer-reviewed research studies on the TM technique confirm a range of benefits for mind, body and behavior.
- Several studies have compared the effects of different meditation practices and found that Transcendental Meditation provides deeper relaxation and is more effective at reducing anxiety, depression and hypertension than other forms of meditation and relaxation. In addition, no other meditation practice shows the widespread coherence throughout all areas of the brain that is seen with Transcendental Meditation.
- The Transcendental Meditation technique is taught in the United States by a non-profit, educational organization.
- More information can be obtained by calling 888-LEARN-TM or visiting, www.tm.org, www.AskTheDoctors.com, or David Lynch Foundation, which offers courses for the Military through its Operation Warrior Wellness program.