Veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) often face challenges when trying to manage their symptoms. Traumatic memories keep replaying in their minds in a continuous loop, according to researchers. Traditional forms of treatment may not always prove effective for all veterans.
A new study shows mindfulness training may serve as a promising way for veterans with PTSD to manage their thoughts. Mindfulness is an alternative therapy that focuses the mind on being aware and in the present. University of Michigan Medical School researchers noted significant improvements in veterans who participated in mindfulness training as part of a study.
Out of 23 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans with PTSD, nine underwent regular group therapy while 14 received sessions that included mindfulness training. Veterans in the latter group were encouraged to meditate on their sensations and surroundings in order to prevent their mind from drifting back to traumatic events. After four months of weekly sessions, the veterans who were given mindfulness training experienced more relief from their PTSD symptoms.
The researchers found surprising results when they compared the veterans’ brain activity prior to the mindfulness sessions and after them. In an MRI conducted after the training, they noted stronger links between different areas of the brain related to shifting attention and processing thoughts.
Lead study author Anthony King said, “The brain findings suggest that mindfulness training may have helped the veterans develop more capacity to shift their attention and get themselves out of being ‘stuck’ in painful cycles of thoughts.”
The researchers suggested their study should be repeated with a larger group of veterans. They also emphasized that mindfulness should not be used as the only treatment for PTSD. In addition, it is essential for veterans with PTSD to receive help from a trained professional.