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Meditation to Treat Ptsd

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Using Meditation to Treat PTSD

Att Yuwana


9 July 2015
Vivian Surwill

Using Meditation to Treat PTSD

It is no secret that our men and women of the military may suffer from a traumatic experience. According to the VA, the numbers are as follows: • Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and Enduring Freedom (OEF): About 11-20 out of every 100 Veterans (or between 11-20%) who served in OIF or OEF have PTSD in a given year. Gulf War (Desert Storm): About 12 out of every 100 Gulf War Veterans (or 12%) have PTSD in a given year. • Vietnam War: About 15 out of every 100 Vietnam Veterans (or 15%) were currently diagnosed with PTSD at the time of the most recent study in the late 1980s, the National Vietnam Veterans Readjustment Study (NVVRS). It is estimated that about 30 out of every 100 (or 30%) of Vietnam Veterans have had PTSD in their lifetime. (How Common is PTSD? (n.d.)
Many have tried to come up with an effective treatment to help our service members suffering through PTSD. Although there are many types of treatment therapy and medication, this article will focus on using forms of meditation like Transcendental Meditation (TM) or yoga to help veterans suffering through PTSD.
Veterans with PTSD There are many forms of treatment, the most common being a combination of therapy and medication. However as in all treatments in psychology, not all people respond well and others don’t find it effective. This causes many veterans to stop seeking treatment altogether. Some don’t even choose to report that they suffer from PTSD. PTSD which affects about one in five veterans, is typically triggered by the experience of a terrifying or life-threatening event. Symptoms may include flashbacks, nightmares, severe anxiety and uncontrollable thoughts and emotions (Parker, 2014.) These symptoms my often cause nightmares, flashbacks and severe anxiety. Many veterans will turn to drugs or alcohol or other reckless activity to keep their minds of the pain. For those that the pain is too much to bear, they will commit suicide. Because of the mediocre success rate of therapy and medication as an effective form of treatment, it has caused the VA and Veterans to seek an alternative and more effective way to help deal with PTSD. A study provided by a scholar at Stanford University helped to provide a treatment they found to be effective.
Emma Seppala’s Study
Emma Seppala, an associate director of Stanford University’s Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education. Seppala proceeded to carry out a the “first randomized controlled study on a form of meditation or yoga for veterans with PTSD that has shown such long-term, lasting effects,” according to her own words that she provided during an interview (Parker, 2014). Seppala and her colleagues took 21 American veterans who served in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The study required that the 21 veterans participated in a breathing-based meditation practice known as Sudarshan Kriya yoga. Studies have shown that the form of yoga known Sudarshan Kriya incorporates breathing exercises along brief periods of discussion and stretching, which has proven to be effective in treating anxiety, addiction and depression.
The 21 participants met for three-hour sessions over the course of seven days. Seppala and her colleagues measured their eye-blink responses to loud noises, respiration rates and self-reported descriptions of participants' PTSD symptoms. The assessments were then taken at four intervals: before, during, one month later, and one year after the treatment. The instructors assisting in the study were from an organization called Project Welcome Home Troops. The organization is dedicated to helping returning veterans and their families improve their quality of life.
The overall findings were very effective. "It resulted in reduced PTSD symptoms, anxiety and respiration rate," wrote Seppala and her co-authors in the article. "Sudarshan Kriya yoga showed the strongest effect on hyper arousal and the re-occurrence of traumatic memories and nightmares" (Parker, 2014.)
Transcendental Meditation (TM)
People with PTSD suffer from an overactive fight or flight response. They feel they are still in the stressful or dangerous situation even when they are no longer in danger. The danger is no longer in the battlefield, but within their mind. PTSD sufferers typically suffer from forms of intrusive memories, heightened anxiety, and personality changes. The hallmark of the disorder is hyper arousal, this is an overreaction to innocuous stimuli, and is often described and sometimes exhibited as feeling “jumpy,” overly anxious and easily startled and constantly on guard.
Hyper arousal is an important part of the autonomic nervous system, it is the part that controls the beating of the heart and other body functions, it also governs one’s ability to respond to his or her environment. It is believed that hyper arousal is at the core of PTSD and the driving force behind some of its symptoms (Gentzler, n.d.) Instead of prescribing medication for most cases, the use of TM is becoming a prescribed form of treatment. The process of TM requires the PTSD sufferer to sit down twice a day for 20 minutes. While doing so they are to envision a specific word or sound which assigned by their psychiatrist. Eventually, with time practitioners find themselves moving into a form of mental "transcendence," or a quiet state of mind.
The hope is that upon reaching this transcendence the sufferer has reached a space within their mind that they may have never previously been to before. This will result in a powerful yet peaceful state of mind. Images of the brains of practitioners shows that those who practice TM regularly have more alpha rhythms. Alpha rhythms are slow brain waves that are associated with less stress. Another study found that veterans who practiced TM had a 50 percent reduction of PTSD symptoms after eight weeks of regular practice.
Formulated Hypothesis
There are many forms of treatment today for PTSD. Therapy and medication are the most common types. However due to the medial success rate it causes veterans to stop seeking help because they do not find it effective. Along with the fact that many veterans have a stigma when it comes to seeking medical attention. The hypothesis this paper seeks to present is that forms of meditation, whether it be yoga or TM will reduce the severity of the symptoms one experiences from PTSD. Taking a group of 60 participants who served in OEF or OIF, similar to the study that Seppala did they will meet up with instructors for three hours a day over a course of 7 days. Their response to loud noises via eye movements will be measured along with their respiratory rates.
The projected population will be to target all veterans who suffer from PTSD in general. However this is quite broad, therefore using the sample of 60 veterans from the VA who served in OEF or OIF. It can then be concluded that TM or yoga is an effective form of treatment for those with PTSD. The objective of the study is to show that after so many weeks that the symptoms of PTSD will be lower amongst the participants.
Gathering the Data
Each participant will meet with a psychiatrist for 3 hours a day. The psychiatrist will talk to each individually and get to know them and what causes their PTSD to be triggered. For although many symptoms are shared amongst veterans, there are others that are different as well. During the three hour session the response and respiratory rate as mentioned earlier in this paper will be measured. Once that is done, the participant will be instructed how to do Sudarshan Kriya or the form of TM. Surdarshan Kriya would be more practical with a psychiatrist inversed in the form. Whereas TM can be practiced individually. Depending on the type of treatment prescribed to them, will determine the amount of time the participant will see the psychiatrist and or instructors. The participants will continue to be followed for up to one month and one year after the study.
This chart represents the results founded by Dr. Norman Rosenthal during a similar study he did on a group of OEF and OIF veterans with PTSD. His study was measured over the course of 8 weeks. The results from the hypothetical study provided in this paper will hope to find that there is a change in the symptoms that the participants exhibit. Given a scored checklist of 200 the psychiatrist will measure the amount of stress level the participant has at the beginning of the study and after. While hoping for a 50 percent improvement on stress levels amongst participants would be desirable the main focus is to get a lower level of stress in the participant and trying to bring the previous overactive sympathetic nervous system to a state of balance. The results hoped for would reflect or be similar to the chart provided above. Conclusion Finding a way to help our service men and women who have put their lives in harm’s way after they return home is crucial to their rehabilitation. As mentioned before, there is more than one way to treat PTSD. However after the information given, it is evident that yoga and meditation provide significant results. The key is to finding which method works for the individual.

Chan, G. (2011, June 1). Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Reduced by Meditation. The Epoch Times (English Edition). Retrieved from
Gentzler, D. ((n.d.)). Transcendental Meditation Can Help Reduce Symptoms of PTSD. Retrieved from
Nauert PhD, R. (2014). Breathing-Based Meditation Helps Vets with PTSD. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 9, 2015, from
Parker, C.B. (n.d.). Stanford scholar helps veterans recover from war trauma. Retrieved from

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