Posttraumatic stress (PTSD), which often results in depression, intrusive memories, anxiety, and fear after a traumatic event, poses serious public health concerns. About 20% of veterans returning from Afghanistan and Iraq have PTSD. Victims of rape, domestic violence, child abuse, and natural disasters can also develop PTSD, with 7–8% of the U.S. population developing PTSD at some point. Treatment can be complicated and expensive and doesn’t always work. According to a new study, though, yogic breathing might help alleviate symptoms of PTSD.
Yogic Breathing for PTSD
A type of yoga called Sudarshan Kriya Yoga utilizes controlled breathing that could directly affect the behavior of the nervous system. Since one of the symptoms of PTSD is hyperarousal, this type of yoga seems like a natural fit to treat symptoms.
To study its effectiveness, researchers devised a small study of 21 participants, all of whom were soldiers. One group of soldiers received training in yogic breathing for a week. At the end of a week, those who underwent training had lower rates of anxiety and respiration in response to a startling noise and fewer symptoms of PTSD than the other group.
Because the study was so small, its results are preliminary. If subsequent research finds the same results, though, doctors could one day prescribe yoga as a treatment for PTSD.
Other Strategies for Coping
Every day, 22 veterans take their own lives. People struggling with PTSD need help now and may be unable to wait for new treatments. Therapy and medication have demonstrated effectiveness at reducing the symptoms of PTSD. Many therapists use prolonged exposure therapy or eye movement desensitization and reprocessing therapy (EMDR), and clinical studies have shown that these treatments can be effective. Meditation and mindfulness can also help, particularly among PTSD sufferers who struggle with hyperarousal and anxiety.
Veterans in crisis who are struggling with PTSD can get assistance by calling the Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255. People struggling with PTSD due to a history of rape or sexual abuse can contact the Rape Abuse and Incest National Network by phone at 1-800-656-HOPE or via the organization’s online hotline here.
- How common is PTSD? (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.ptsd.va.gov/public/PTSD-overview/basics/how-common-is-ptsd.asp
- Meditation as a part of PTSD treatment. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.recoveryranch.com/articles/trauma-and-ptsd-articles/meditation-as-a-part-of-ptsd-treatment/
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). (2014, April 15). Retrieved from http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/post-traumatic-stress-disorder/basics/treatment/con-2002254
- Symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder may be relieved by yogic breathing. (2014, September 16). Retrieved from http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/releases/282470.php
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