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Mantram Meditation Decreases PTSD in Veterans


There is a significantly high dropout rate among veterans who seek treatment for posttraumatic stress (PTSD). Many conventional therapies, such as trauma-focused therapy, address the specific traumas that trigger symptoms of PTSD and can be so emotionally painful that the veterans cannot complete treatment. Learning how to regulate the emotional overwhelm associated with these memories is one way to increase treatment adherence and help the many thousands of individuals who suffer with PTSD. Meditation has been used in the past to help individuals cope with feelings of anxiety and depression and could provide an alternative and complementary approach to addressing the painful emotions of PTSD. The three types of meditation include object-focused, moment-to moment, and transcendental (TM). Both moment-to-moment and object-focused meditation encourage acceptance and nonjudgment of emotions, while TM increases spiritual awareness by focusing on a mantram. Through the mantram repetition program (MRP), clients are guided into meditation through repetition of a spiritual word that they can rely on at any time to bring them to a state of heightened awareness. The goal of MRP is to slow someone down so that they focus only on the present and one feeling or task at a time. This allows them to manage difficult emotions as they arise without becoming overpowered by them.

To determine if MRP would help veterans with PTSD, Jill E. Bormann of the Department of Nursing & Patient Care Services at the Center of Excellence for Stress and Mental Health of the VA San Diego Healthcare System in San Diego recently conducted a study comparing the effects of MRP versus treatment as usual (TAU) in 146 veterans with PTSD. After 6 weeks of treatment, Bormann found that the veterans who participated in the MRP realized symptom reduction that was nearly twice that of the TAU group. Specifically, those in the MRP group exhibited significantly better emotional regulation skills and reduced anxiety when they experienced traumatic memories. The MRP participants also reported a dramatic increase in overall spiritual connectedness and well-being. Overall, the MRP group showed much better improvement than the TAU group. Bormann added, “In summary, the 6-week MRP was well received and tolerated, and demonstrated some improvement in PSTD symptoms, depression, and mental-health-related quality of life in veterans, when delivered as an adjunct to TAU (medication and case management).”

Bormann, J. E., Thorp, S. R., Wetherell, J. L., Golshan, S., & Lang, A. J. (2012). Meditation-based mantram intervention for veterans with posttraumatic stress disorder: A randomized trial. Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0027522

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  • johnny March 21st, 2012 at 3:06 PM #1

    kind of funny from my point of view, thinking about some of the guys that i served with sitting around and meditating. but i hope that it can help, you know. we saw stuff that most of us try for years to get over, to confront and move on, and try to avoid at the same ime, if that makes any kind of sense at all. it hurts to go thru it all again, so if this helps then i would love to see some of the guys i know get better and be able to have a normal life again

  • Monique March 22nd, 2012 at 4:12 AM #2

    What a wonderful coping strategy that any of us could benefit from, but certainly these veterans who are suffering from PTSD. Giving them something with spiritual meaning to focus on instead of that pain and anxiety is an excellent idea for giving them power, power over that pain and a knowing that this is not something that has to continue to overshadow their lives.

  • Anna March 23rd, 2012 at 5:46 AM #3

    Its so important to deal with and treat someone who has been through trauma in a very careful and delicate manner because even the slightest of things could bring back the memories of the traumatic event and trigger off problems for the victim.

    And if a method of meditation is involved it even reduces the need of going through those memories again all while helping you get over the same.

  • Anne Smithson March 29th, 2012 at 7:10 PM #4

    I think meditation is a good option for PTSD. Unlike pills, it does not have terrible side effects and it is affordable. Plus, there are different types of meditation to try. Over on her website healthjourneys.com, Belleruth Naparstek writes a great deal about guided meditation as an option for treating PTSD.

  • Jamie November 29th, 2012 at 2:53 PM #5

    I was diagnosed with PTSD resulting from childhood abuse and therapy did not help me personally. In ways, I believe that therapy worsened my state of being. My university offers yoga classes and I enrolled at the beginning of the most recent semester. It is one of the best things I have ever done. Yoga not only increased my awareness to the physical tension I held in my body continuously, it also got me interested in meditation. After about a month of practice, I no longer had somatic pains that I experienced daily. I no longer operate off of the ‘flight-or-fight’ response (not doing so was a weird experience at first because it was my normal state), and I am a much happier person. I am not completely recovered, but I am able to recognize intrusive thoughts and triggers when they arise and respond to them differently. Both yoga and meditation really are a permanent way of life for me now. It has definitely changed my life significantly.

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