Our military is well trained for the rigors of combat, but many veterans find themselves unprepared for the debilitating post traumatic stress many experience when they return home to their families. Coping with depression, anxiety, insomnia, and flashbacks of war experiences can be overwhelming.
In January, Time magazine revealed that the number of male veterans under the age of 30 who committed suicide jumped by 44 percent between 2009 and 2011 (the most recent year for which data was available) according to numbers released this January by the Department of Veterans Affairs. Time also noted that roughly two young veterans a day commit suicide.
Standard treatments have not been successful in delivering much needed relief to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) sufferers. But a pilot study published in Military Medicine showed that a novel approach to treating veterans reduced depression and symptoms of PTSD by 40-55%.
According to the study led by renowned researcher Norman Rosenthal, M.D., Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Georgetown University Medical School and Director of Research at Capital Clinical Research Associates in Rockville, Maryland, veterans of the Iraq/Afghanistan wars experienced a 50% reduction in PTSD symptoms after eight weeks of practicing the stress-reducing Transcendental Meditation (TM®) technique.
Dr. Rosenthal was the first to describe seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and pioneered the use of light therapy as a treatment. He is also the author of the New York Times bestseller, Transcendence: Healing and Transformation through Transcendental Meditation.
The study found that the TM® program 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 the 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.
“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.”
Rosenthal hypothesizes that the TM® technique 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 TM®.
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. “Based on our study and previous findings, I believe Transcendental Meditation certainly warrants further study for combat-related PTSD,” says Rosenthal.
For more information on Transcendental Meditation or to schedule an introductory presentation, please contact Dennis Rowe at (760) 537.1006.