New research has shown the mindfulness is an effective therapy for people suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
The research was conducted with American soldiers who had experienced combat. They were enrolled in a 16 week programme, which included mindfulness. Their results were compared with soldiers who were undertaking a form of PTSD treatment known as present-centered group therapy (PCGT), which has been long-established as an effective therapy.
The soldiers were randomly assigned to one of the two groups, and they were not obliged to finish the treatment. Only 18% of the soldiers in the mindfulness group chose to leave the programme, compared with 65% of those in the PCGT group. Although both groups showed improved over the course of the treatment, mindfulness proved to be the more effective therapy. Functional MRI studies performed before and after treatment showed that veterans in the mindfulness program experienced changes in the default mode network with greater connectively to areas of the brain that control executive function and attention. (For more information on the “default mode network” see our blog post Exploring the Neuroscience of Mindfulness.)
Anthony King of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, one of the researchers, posited that the positive results may be because mindfulness teaches us to concentrate on the now.
“People with PTSD ruminate, and rumination is all about not being present. It’s all about focusing on something terrible that happened in the past or something frightening that will happen in the future, so these patients are stuck in a rut,” he explained.
More research needs to be done on using mindfulness as a treatment for PTSD — which is something that can effect anyone who has been through a traumatic experience — but the results are certainly promising.