Improve Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Symptoms In Veterans With Body Scan or Breath Following Meditation.

Improve Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Symptoms In Veterans With Body Scan or Breath Following Meditation.


By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.


“Practicing mindfulness can help you to be more focused and aware of the present moment while also being more willing to experience the difficult emotions that sometimes come up after trauma.” – National Center for PTSD


Experiencing trauma is quite common. It has been estimated that 60% of men and 50% of women will experience a significant traumatic event during their lifetime. But, only a fraction will develop Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). But this still results in a frightening number of people with 7%-8% of the population developing PTSD at some point in their life. For military personnel, it’s much more likely for PTSD to develop with about 11%-20% of those who have served in a war zone developing PTSD.


PTSD involves a number of troubling symptoms including reliving the event with the same fear and horror in nightmares or with a flashback. PTSD sufferers avoid situations that remind them of the event this may include crowds, driving, movies, etc. and may avoid seeking help because it keeps them from having to think or talk about the event. They often experience negative changes in beliefs and feelings including difficulty experiencing positive or loving feelings toward other people, avoiding relationships, memory difficulties, or see the world as dangerous and no one can be trusted. Sufferers may feel hyperarousal, feeling keyed up and jittery, or always alert and on the lookout for danger. They may experience sudden anger or irritability, may have a hard time sleeping or concentrating, may be startled by a loud noise or surprise.


Obviously, these are troubling symptoms that need to be addressed. There are a number of therapies that have been developed to treat PTSD. One of which, mindfulness training has been found to be particularly effective. The Mindfulness-based Stress reduction (MBSR) program has been found to improve the symptoms of PTSD. But MBSR training contains meditation, body scan, and yoga. It is not known which these components of mindfulness training are effective and which are not.


In today’s Research News article “The Body Scan and Mindful Breathing Among Veterans with PTSD: Type of Intervention Moderates the Relationship Between Changes in Mindfulness and Post-treatment Depression.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: Colgan and colleagues recruited military veterans who were diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). They were randomly assigned to one of 4 groups, body scan meditation, mindful breathing meditation, slow breathing and sitting quietly. Training was the same for all conditions with weekly 60-minute group meetings for 6 weeks along with home practice. Each condition was practiced for 20 minutes at a time. They were measured before and after training for mindfulness, including observing, describing, acting with awareness, nonjudgmental acceptance, and nonreactivity to inner experience facets, depression, and PTSD symptoms including re-experiencing, avoidance, and hyperarousal.


They found that the two mindfulness groups, body scan meditation and mindful breathing meditation produced significant increases in mindfulness and significant decreases in depression and PTSD symptoms while the non-mindfulness groups, slow breathing and sitting quietly, did not. Within the mindfulness groups the greater the levels of the mindfulness facet of acting with awareness the lower the depression scores. The greater the increases in nonreactivity the greater the decreases in depression for the body scan meditation group but not the mindful breathing meditation group. In contrast, the greater the increases in acting with awareness the greater the decreases in depression for the mindful breathing meditation group but not the body scan meditation group.


These are interesting results that replicate the prior findings that mindfulness training improves depression and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) symptoms. The results further demonstrate the two different mindfulness trainings, body scan meditation, and mindful breathing meditation are effective in improving depression and PTSD symptoms. Mindfulness training programs also contain slowing of breathing and quiet sitting. These components do not involve training in mindfulness itself but rather are necessary for the mindfulness training. The present results demonstrate that these components are not effective, demonstrating that it’s only the active mindfulness training components that are effective.


The results also suggest that body scan meditation and mindful breathing meditation effect depression and PTSD symptoms in different ways. Body scan meditation appears to have its effects on depression through increasing nonreactivity to inner experience. This suggests that this training improves the ability recognize inner experience as simply experiences and thereby not reacting to them. On the other hand, mindful breathing meditation appears to work by increasing acting with awareness. This suggests that this training improves depression by making the individual more aware of their actions.


Having Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is very difficult to deal with and can lead to very serious consequences such as suicide. It’s wonderful to have a safe and effective treatment, mindfulness, to lessen the torment of PTSD. The present study helps in further defining what components of mindfulness training work. This can lead to an even more effective treatment plan.


So, improve Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) symptoms in veterans with body scan or breath following meditation


Military veterans experienced improvements in symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) following mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) treatment.” – Emily Pond


CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies


This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ and on Twitter @MindfulResearch


Study Summary


Colgan, D. D., Christopher, M., Michael, P., & Wahbeh, H. (2016). The Body Scan and Mindful Breathing Among Veterans with PTSD: Type of Intervention Moderates the Relationship Between Changes in Mindfulness and Post-treatment Depression. Mindfulness, 7(2), 372–383.



Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) is a promising intervention for veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression; however, a more detailed examination of the different elements of MBSR and various facets of mindfulness to determine what works best for whom is warranted. One hundred and two veterans with PTSD were randomly assigned to one of four arms: (a) body scan (BS; n= 27), (b) mindful breathing (MB; n=25), (c) slow breathing (SB; n=25), or (d) sitting quietly (SQ; n=25). The purpose of this study was to (a) examine two separate components of MBSR (i.e., body scan and mindful breathing) among veterans with PTSD when compared to a nonmindfulness intervention (SB) and a control group (SQ), (b) assess if changes in specific mindfulness facets were predictive of post-treatment PTSD and depression for individuals who participated in a mindfulness intervention (BS vs. MB), and (c) investigate if type of mindfulness intervention received would moderate the relationship between pre- to post-treatment changes in mindfulness facets and post-treatment outcomes in PTSD and depression. Participants in the mindfulness groups experienced significant decreases in PTSD and depression symptom severity and increases in mindfulness, whereas the nonmindfulness groups did not. Among veterans who participated in a mindfulness group, change in the five facets of mindfulness accounted for 23 % of unique variance in the prediction of post-treatment depression scores. Simple slope analyses revealed that type of mindfulness intervention moderated the relationship among changes in facets of mindfulness and post-treatment depression.


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