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Using mindfulness therapies to treat veterans' PTSD

Past research has suggested that teaching soldiers meditation exercises prior to their deployment can help them better cope with the trauma of war. Now, new findings show that mindfulness-based therapies can also be effective in helping treat veterans diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after they return home.

In the study (subscription required), researchers assigned veterans with chronic PTSD to either a mindfulness-based cognitive therapy group or traditional treatment program. Individuals in the mindfulness treatment groups completed  in-class exercises, such as "body scanning," where they focused on pain, tension and other physical sensations in various parts of their bodies, and were instructed to perform activities at home. According to a story posted on PsychCentral today:

After eight weeks of treatment, 73 percent of patients in the mindfulness group displayed meaningful improvement compared to 33 percent in the treatment-as-usual groups.

[Anthony King, PhD, the study’s lead author said in a release] the most noticeable area of improvement for patients in the mindfulness group was a reduction in avoidance symptoms.

One of the main tenets of mindfulness therapy is a sustained focus on thoughts and memories, even ones that might be unpleasant.

“Part of the psychological process of PTSD often includes avoidance and suppression of painful emotions and memories, which allows symptoms of the disorder to continue,” King said. “Through the mindfulness intervention, however, we found that many of our patients were able to stop this pattern of avoidance and see an improvement in their symptoms.”

The findings are noteworthy considering the growing demand for PTSD treatment among soldiers returning from combat.

Previously: U.S. consortium launches effort to identify PTSD biomarkers to improve diagnosis and treatment, Using a mobile-based app to help manage PTSD and Stanford and other medical schools to increase training and research for PTSD, combat injuries
Photo by felicito rustique

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