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Researcher reports on recent studies: Transcendental Meditation reduces PTSD in African war refugees
by Global Good News staff writer

Global Good News    Translate This Article
19 February 2014

Research on post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) dating back to 1985 shows the great effectiveness of Transcendental Meditation, compared to other therapeutic modalities, in decreasing what was then called 'post-Vietnam adjustment' in war veterans. A more recent study, published in Military Medicine in 2011, found beneficial effects of practising Transcendental Meditation in veterans of combat in Iraq and Afghanistan. Col. Brian Rees, MD, MPH, US Army Reserve Medical Corps, reported on these previous findings as he introduced current research on Transcendental Meditation and PTSD in African war refugees.

Two recent studies, both published in the Journal of Traumatic Stress—the first in April 2013, the second in February 2014—involved Congolese refugees in Kampala, Uganda. This research, for which Col. Rees was the lead author, was sponsored by the non-profit African PTSD Relief, an initiative of the David Lynch Foundation.

During the five years of the Second Congo War, 5.4 million people lost their lives, half a million refugees were created, and 2.2 million people were displaced. About 80,000 war refugees ended up settling in or around Kampala.

In the first study of 42 Congolese refugees, 95% of the subjects experienced significant changes and were non-symptomatic for PTSD symptoms after 30 days of practising Transcendental Meditation; 100% had significant changes at four months (135 days). In these two time periods none of the control groups showed any improvement.

The Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Checklist for Civilians (PCL-C; also referred to as the PTSD Check List), which rates the severity of PTSD on a scale from 17 to 85, was used to determine the level of PTSD for each subject prior to learning Transcendental Meditation. It consists of 17 questions that rate the experience of PTSD-type symptoms.

The effectiveness of PTSD treatments is seen in terms of a reduction in PCL-C scores. In this study Transcendental Meditation was shown to reduce symptoms more than twice as much as other modalities (biofeedback, cognitive processing therapy, virtual reality exposure therapy).

The robust positivity in the 30-day data led researchers to do a second study. Researchers found that 66% of the beneficial effect of the practice in reducing symptoms of PTSD occurred within the first 10 days. Subjects continued to improve and at 30 days, the results of the first study were confirmed.

Col. Rees explained that the traumatic stresses that generate PTSD cause the brain's cerebral cortex to shut down, and produce a 'fight or flight' response. The amygdala, which normally switches on to identify threats in the environment, 'gets stuck in the ''on'' position' when people are constantly under threat, as in a war zone. They cannot relax and are constantly over-alert, which leads to the inability to make good decisions.

During Transcendental Meditation, as the mind settles down and transcends the activity of thought, 'the highly distressing irreconcilable differences between the horrors of war and the natural happiness of life begin to fade away'. For this reason Col. Rees sees Transcendental Meditation as a highly effective treatment to eradicate the ill effects of PTSD in both military and civilian populations.

Global Good News will report more about the African PTSD Relief Project.

Copyright © 2014 Global Good News Service

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