A new study has found that mindfulness-based stress reduction therapies help veterans get past post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) faster and easier than any other type pf group treatment.
Mindfulness asks those battling PTSD not to avoid or ignore any disturbing feeling, thoughts and / or experiences, but to embrace them instead, to put them in perspective and live in the moment.
Melissa Polusny, lead researcher and staff psychologist over at the Minneapolis Veterans Affairs Health Care System, gave a statement explaining that “Mindfulness-based stress reduction teaches individuals to attend to the present moment, to attend to what they are experiencing – their thoughts, their feelings – in a nonjudgmental, accepting manner”.
She went on to add that the medical community strongly believes that if they manage to teach people mindfulness skills, it will help them manage their PTSD symptoms better and have an entirely different relationship with them. The goal is to keep veterans from pushing their thoughts away, and simply let them be there.
For their study, Polusny and her team picked out a group of veterans with PTSD and gave them eight (8) weekly therapy sessions of two and a half (2.5) hours each. The sessions focused on meditation and teaching subjects mindfulness skills.
When compared to other veterans who received a typical treatment of nine (9) weekly group sessions of one and a half (1.5) hours each, addressing specific problems PTSD causes in their daily lives, the researchers found that the veterans in the first group had much better results.
Once their mindfulness skills started to improve, 49 percent (49%) of the subjects reported having highly reduced PTSD symptoms, including nightmares, flashbacks to traumatic events, and avoidance of things that may remind them of said traumatic events. On top of everything, they were also irritable, less depressed, and their quality of life improved in general.
For comparison, only 28 percent (28%) of the subjects who underwent typical treatment made the same progress.
Polusny concluded that the evidence suggests that mindfulness-based stress reduction therapy is very likely a promising treatment for PTSD.
She went on to inform that people often feel that they don’t have any control over their disturbing memories. The key is to teach them skills that allow them to interact differently with their thoughts and feelings.
One possible reason for why mindfulness-based stress reduction therapies are more efficient is that they take a gentler approach and expose veterans to their trauma without asking them to relieve it.
While the more aggressive types of treatment have proven to be effective, Polusny shared that many people find it hard to tolerate them, and even harder to complete them.
It’s worth mentioning that PTSD is a widespread problem as one in four (1 in 4) veterans return from their deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan suffering from PTSD. If left untreated, the condition can lead to an abundance of other health and social problems such as alcohol abuse, drug abuse and disability.
The study was published earlier this week, on Tuesday (August 4, 2015), in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
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