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Mindfulness Therapy Beneficial for PTSD Symptoms in Veterans

Learning to accept disturbing memories, thoughts, and feelings can reduce symptoms

TUESDAY, Aug. 4, 2015 (HealthDay News) — Mindfulness therapy appears to help veterans cope with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a new study suggests. The report was published in the Aug. 4 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, a theme issue on violence and human rights.

Melissa Polusny, Ph.D., a staff psychologist from the Minneapolis Veterans Affairs Health Care System, and colleagues randomly assigned 116 veterans with PTSD to nine sessions of either mindfulness-based stress-reduction therapy or present-centered group therapy, which focused on current life problems.

The researchers found that during treatment and in the two months following, mindfulness-based stress-reduction therapy improved PTSD symptoms more than did present-centered group therapy. In fact, those who had mindfulness-based stress-reduction therapy experienced a 49 percent reduction in PTSD symptoms, compared with a 28 percent reduction in symptoms among those who had present-centered group therapy.

As mindfulness skills increased, patients showed improvement in PTSD symptoms such as nightmares, flashbacks of the traumatic event, and avoiding things that might remind them of the traumatic event. In addition, patients experienced improvements in irritability, depression, and quality of life, Polusny told HealthDay. “We think that teaching people these mindfulness skills helps them to have a different relationship with their PTSD symptoms — a willingness to let thoughts be there without trying to push them away.”

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