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Policymakers Urged: ''Use a Treatment for PTSD that Actually Works''
by David Shapiro

David Lynch Foundation Blog    Translate This Article
6 January 2016

The Hill and the Early Bird Brief, two news sources popular with the US Congress and the Department of Defense, recently featured two op-eds that urged policymakers to help veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) through the use of Transcendental Meditation (TM). The authors cited pilot studies showing that TM practice provides profound, rapid, and effective relief from PTSD symptoms, both for US veterans and for civilians—in contrast to primary psychotherapy treatments.

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The first pilot study, with veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, showed a 50 percent reduction in PTSD symptoms within two months of TM practice for 20 minutes twice a day. A second study, published in the Journal of Traumatic Stress, showed that ninety percent of Congolese war refugees with high levels of PTSD symptoms became non-symptomatic within 30 days of TM practice.

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The op-ed authors—Brian Rees, M.D., a retired colonel with five tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan and a former physician with the Veterans Administration; David O'Connell, Ph.D., a clinical and forensic psychologist for 35 years and editor of Prescribing Health: Transcendental Meditation in Contemporary Medical Care; and David Leffler, Ph.D., executive director at the Center for Advanced Military Science—made their recommendation to use the TM technique in response to a recent study in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), which concluded that primary psychotherapy treatments for PTSD are not proving to be effective. Two thirds of US veterans with PTSD still suffer from the disorder after undergoing either Prolonged Exposure Therapy or Cognitive Processing Therapy. (Click here to read the August 4 JAMA review article on psychotherapy and PTSD.)

The National Institutes of Health has described PTSD as a condition where people feel stressed or frightened,­ even when they are no longer in danger, due to a terrifying past ordeal that involved physical harm or the threat of physical harm either to the person or to someone witnessing such an ordeal. These events may include physical attacks, forced captivity, verbal or physical abuse, accidents, and natural disasters. The disorder can affect men, women and children of all ages.

Research has shown that prolonged exposure and cognitive processing therapies can be uncomfortable because they require the patient to address past traumatic events. TM, on the other hand, is simple to learn and comfortable to practice, and it does not directly attend to past traumas or negative emotions. It is an effortless mental technique practiced by 7 million people around the world from every cultural, ethnic and economic background. Over 350 scientific studies published in peer-reviewed journals show a wide range of additional benefits.

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I came to understand firsthand just how rapidly TM practice can reduce PTSD when I helped organize research and co-authored two articles published in the Journal of Traumatic Stress concerning Congolese War refugees with PTSD who learned TM. Since those articles were published, scientists have repeated the testing in two South African colleges, with similar results: the majority of college students with PTSD became non-symptomatic within 3.5 months (study in submission).

Based on the evidence, TM should be considered a top adjunct to psychotherapy that can dramatically improve the results of PTSD treatment. It can also be used successfully and cost-effectively as a stand-alone approach, as has been the case in PTSD relief projects across Africa.

In order to continue projects to reduce PTSD in the lives of our veterans, as well as civilians around the world who have been subjected to violence and abuse, support is both needed and welcome. These efforts, along with ongoing research examining the effectiveness and expediency of Transcendental Meditation, will do much to reduce or even eradicate the chronic and debilitating effects of PTSD.


David Shapiro is President and Member of the Board of PTSD Relief Now, and co-author of two studies related to the TM program and PTSD relief, published in the Journal of Traumatic Stress (April 2013 and February 2014). He has designed and managed social change and wellness projects ranging from local clinics to national ballot access programs.

Copyright © 2016 David Lynch Foundation

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