Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) among military personnel remains one of the most tragic consequences of America’s obsession with war. Once dismissed as “shell shock,” PTSD is now recognized as a serious mental disorder brought on by a traumatic event, like combat. It’s estimated that PTSD affects 7.7 million people in the U.S., and between 11 and 20 percent of all veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
When we imagine those with PTSD, we often think of men who’ve seen military service, but women are actually twice as likely to develop the disorder in their lifetime. For decades, the medical community has searched for a way to rehabilitate PTSD sufferers so that tragedies like this murder-suicide and the recent Fort Hood shooting can be avoided. Now, new research suggests that practicing yoga can augment effective psychotherapeutic treatments, especially for females struggling with PTSD.
In a study recently published by the Journal of Traumatic Stress, researchers worked with 38 women who showed full or subthreshold PTSD symptoms. The traumatic events of the individuals in the sample ranged from childhood physical abuse to the unexpected death of a loved one. Those who participated in yoga showed a marked decrease in reexperiencing and hyperarousal symptoms.
“Yoga may downregulate the stress response, and positively impact PTSD and comorbid depression and anxiety symptoms,” explained the researchers. Leading them to believe that yoga may be an effective adjunctive treatment for PTSD.
This isn’t the first time science has suggested that unorthodox treatments could speed relief for those suffering from PTSD.
In 2012, Care2 reported on groundbreaking research from the Journal of Psychopharmacology which found that MDMA, often referred to as ‘ecstasy,’ can make traditional psychotherapy more successful for those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. Once again the focus was on women, 10 percent of whom are affected by the disorder in America.
“These long-term results were primarily in women who suffered from chronic PTSD as a result of sexual assault and abuse,” explained Brad Burge, of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), told Care2 at the time. “Our ongoing study in South Carolina is now looking at whether we can achieve such dramatic improvements in veterans and first responders who also suffer from PTSD as a result of service. Our initial results there are promising, suggesting that MDMA-assisted psychotherapy may also be a powerful future treatment option for the growing number of men and women who suffer from PTSD as a result of war, terrorism, and natural disasters.”
Both studies underscore the need for a more holistic approach to treating the millions that suffer from PTSD around the world. For too long mental health has been a taboo topic, shaming those who suffer from mental disorders into silence. For every military shooting spree or trauma victim suicide that makes the news, there are thousands who endure social stigmas and ineffective treatments. It’s high time we had a frank discussion about PTSD in this country, and work quickly to increase access to all treatments–even simple ones like yoga–proven to provide relief.
Image via jeanwichinoski
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