Efficacy of Meditation-Based Interventions on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Among Veterans: A Narrative Review

Taj Haider, MPH; Chia-Liang Dai, PhD; Manoj Sharma, PhD


Background • Decades of research have documented post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms in war veterans. Current treatment options for PTSD are unappealing as they either require re-exposure to the traumatic event or medications that are greatly impacted by comorbidities. Meditation-based interventions are a promising alternative. However, there is a dearth of research examining their impact.

Primary objective • The purpose of this study was to examine meditation-based interventions tested for efficacy in treating PTSD among veterans and provide collective evidence.

Methods • Authors searched the MEDLINE and CINAHL databases for relevant studies using the following inclusion criteria: (1) published in peer-reviewed journals; (2) conducted between January 2014 and July 2020; (3) described the evaluation of interventions; and (4) incorporated quantitative or mixed methods.

Setting • United States.

Participants • U.S. Veterans

Results • A total of 15 studies (ten articles) met the inclusion criteria. Four tested Transcendental Meditation (n = 4), three tested Mantra Meditation (n = 3), two tested Mindful Meditation (n = 2), one tested Breathing-based Meditation (n = 1), one tested Mindfulness-based Exposure Therapy (n = 1), one tested Cognitively-based Compassion Training Meditation (n = 1), one tested Mantra Meditation and Mindfulness-based Treatment (n = 1), one tested Mindfulness-based PTSD Treatment (n = 1), and one tested Primary Care Brief Mindfulness Program (n = 1). The most common duration was 8 weeks (n = 8) and the most common evaluation design was the randomized controlled trial (n = 10). The most common outcome measure was the Clinician Administered PTSD Scale (CAPS) (n = 12).

Conclusion • All interventions reported improvements in PTSD symptoms. Based on this review, meditation-based therapy is a promising approach for managing PTSD, particularly among veterans resistant to trauma-focused therapies. Randomized control trials with large sample sizes that apply CAPS as their primary outcome measure, and take into account effect size, attrition rates, and blinding are recommended for further research. (Adv Mind Body Med. 2020;35(1):16-24.)

Taj Haider, MPH, Civic Hall Labs, Inc., New York, NY, Chia-Liang Dai, PhD, University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and Manoj Sharma, PhD, University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

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