Friday , October 22 2021

Transcendental Meditation as effective as long-term exposure treatment for PTSD


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Sanford Nidich

Transcendental meditation, a non-trauma-targeted intervention, was non-inferior to long-term exposure therapy in reducing the severity of PTSD symptoms and comorbid depression in PTSD veterans, according to the results of a randomized controlled study.

These results, published in The Lancet Psychiatristy indicated that transcendental meditation could be effective as an alternative therapy for veterans with PTSD.

"There is an urgent need for authorities to detect and implement viable evidence-based treatments, including non-trauma-based, to address the problem of PTSD in veterans and other risky populations" Sanford Nidich, EdD, Director of the Center for Social and Emotional Health at Maharishi University of Management Research Institute, Fairfield, Iowa, told Healio Psychiatry. "The current randomized controlled clinical trial … was funded by the United States Department of Defense to evaluate the effectiveness of transcendental meditation, a non-trauma-focused exercise, to reduce PTSD symptoms in veterans."

Researchers compared transcendental meditation with long-term exposure therapy in a randomized, controlled non-inferiority study to investigate the change in the severity of PTSD symptoms over 3 months via clinically administered PTSD-scale (CAPS) points. They also compared both therapies with the control of PTSD health education, and the hypothesis that the reduction of self-reported PTSD symptoms via the PTSD Checklist-Military version (PCL-M) would be greater with these therapies than in PTSD health education. In addition, they examined the treatment effects on comorbid depression using the patient survey form (PHQ) -9.

The investigators randomly assigned 203 veterinarians with PTSD to receive one of the three treatments provided for 12 sessions for 12 weeks of day care. Participants usually received Transcendental Meditation and PTSD Health Education in a group setting, while long-term exposure treatment is given individually.

A total of 68 veterans were assigned to the Transcendental Meditation Group, 68 to the Long-Term Exposure Therapy Group, and 67 to the PTSD Health Education Group. Overall, 61% of the veterans who received transcendental meditation, 42% of those receiving long-term exposure treatment and 32% of those receiving health education, reported clinically significant improvements in the severity of the PTSD symptoms.

Transcendental meditation was significantly non-inferior to long-term exposure therapy in PTSD symptom resistance measured by CAPS, self-reported PTSD symptoms measured by PCL-M and comorbid depression measured by PHQ-9 points after covariate adjustment.

N-supplement, transcendental meditation and long-term exposure treatment were superior to the active control treatment. Using standard superiority comparisons, Nidich and colleagues found that both transcendental meditation and long-term exposure treatment resulted in significant decreases in CAPS scores compared to PTSD health education.


Transcendental meditation was as effective as long-term exposure therapy in reducing PTSD symptoms among veterans, showing the study results.

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"The results of the clinical trial indicate that transcendental meditation can provide a viable alternative to treating veterans with PTSD," said Nidich Healio Psychiatry.

"Transcendental Meditation can be easily implemented in state healthcare systems in the US and other countries to help treat veterans who do not respond or avoid treatment with trauma-focused therapies," continued Nidich. "[It] can also be considered as an additional treatment and licensed clinics are invited to work with Certified Transcendental Meditation Instructors to provide the best possible treatment for veterans based on veteran preference and response to treatment. "

These findings provide evidence to support transcendental meditation for PTSD, but more studies are needed to determine the economic impact of this intervention, Vernon Anthony Barnes, PhD, from Augusta University, wrote in a related editorial. Previous research has shown healthcare use and costs decrease with Transcendental Meditation, he explained.

"Since patients with PTSD have long-term high medical costs, especially in multiple chronic conditions, one can benefit from at least one cumulative cost reduction," Barnes wrote. "[Transcendental Meditation] Education can have a significant health effect as an addition to the healthcare standard and can have a significant value for improving the quality of life for military officials. " – by Savannah Demko

Disclosures: Nidich reports no relevant financial information. See the study for all other authors' relevant financial information. Barnes reports no relevant financial information.

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