Transcendental meditation could help soldiers deal with post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, according to a study backed by the United States Department of Defense.

During a clinical trial, researchers found that the effects of transcendental meditation are almost equal to the benefits of exposure therapy, which is a treatment method preferred by the Department of Veterans Affair.

The study was published in the medical journal The Lancet.

The Problem With Exposure Therapy

Exposure therapy is the most commonly used psychological treatment for patients dealing with PTSD. It involves a psychologist creating a safe environment where an individual, in this case, a military veteran, to relive their combat experiences to reduce their fear.

However, to some, exposure therapy can be too much. Many military veterans drop out from the treatment or refuse to try it at all.

The researchers wanted to find an alternative option that would not involve confronting traumatic experiences. They found that transcendental meditation, with medication, can be as effective as exposure therapy for patients dealing with PTSD.

Coping With PTSD With Meditation

The researchers did a randomized, controlled trial involving 203 veterans who have been diagnosed with PTSD. The participants were split into groups: transcendental meditation, exposure therapy, and educational classes. The trial happened over a three-month period.

About 61 percent of those who were assigned in transcendental meditation reported a significant improvement to their condition. In comparison, only 42 percent from the exposure therapy group said their condition has improved after treatment.

On average, transcendental meditation reduced the symptoms of PTSD in patients by 14.6 percent compared to 8.7 percent from participants who went through exposure therapy.

"Because trauma exposure can be difficult for patients, similarly effective treatments that do not require exposure such as transcendental meditation could be appealing to veterans and other groups with PTSD," stated Sanford Nidich from the Maharishi University of Management who led the study.

About 10 to 20 percent of military veterans are diagnosed with PTSD and more than a third of them do not recover even after many years.

In addition to its psychological benefits, transcendental meditation can be done at home and at zero extra cost. However, Vernon Barnes, who is not involved in the study, warned that researchers need to be demonstrated in larger trials before it is widely implemented.

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