A new South African study finds that after 3-1/2 months of practicing Transcendental Meditation (TM), a majority of the 34 college participants — all of whom had been clinically diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) — no longer exhibited PTSD symptoms. The students also experienced relief from depression.
The findings are published in the journal Psychological Reports.
TM is a type of silent mantra meditation designed to promote a state of relaxed awareness and relief from distracting thoughts.
A significant portion — up to 25 percent — of the population in South Africa suffers from PTSD, according to Dr. Eugene Allers, past-president of the South African Society of Psychiatrists. In the U.S., the estimated PTSD prevalence is around 8 percent.
PTSD is a chronic, debilitating condition that may last a lifetime if not treated effectively. Research has shown that adolescents and children in South Africa may be exposed to relatively high levels of traumatic experiences, particularly witnessing or experiencing violence of a criminal or domestic nature.
“A high percentage of young people in South Africa, especially those living in the townships, suffer from PTSD,” said co-author Michael Dillbeck, Ph.D., researcher in the Institute for Science, Technology, and Public Policy at Maharishi University of Management in Iowa.
“To become successful students and productive members of society, they absolutely need help dealing with the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. ”
The study was conducted by an international research team of seven scientists and psychologists. At the start, 34 students at Maharishi Institute (MI) and a comparison group of 34 students from the University of Johannesburg (UJ) had a clinician’s verification of PTSD as well as a score of 44 or more on the well-established PTSD measure called the PCL-C (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Checklist-Civilian Version). A score above 44 indicates likely PTSD and below 34 indicates that one is below the PTSD threshold.
Participants’ symptoms included nightmares, flashbacks to traumatic events, anxiety, fear, and hypervigilance. They also reported emotional numbness, anger, and violent behavior, as well as abuse of drugs and alcohol.
At 15 days into the study, the MI students showed a significant drop of more than 10 points in their PTSD symptoms after learning Transcendental Meditation. They also found relief from depression, judged by Beck Depression Index scores.
Re-testing was also carried out at 60 days and 105 days of their TM practice. By 105 days, the average group score for the MI students was below the PTSD threshold of 34, according to the paper tests. The UJ students, who received no treatment or support, showed no significant reduction in symptoms in depression nor PTSD.
Overall, an analysis at 105 days showed that 27 students in the TM group were “unlikely” to still have PTSD compared to only four in the control group.
Thirteen previous studies focused on the effects of Transcendental Meditation showed reductions in PTSD on Congolese war refugees, U.S. war veterans, and male and female prisoners.