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Meditation techniques find their place among solutions offered to solve the delicate problem of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). One in ten French people might be affected!
One in Ten French People May Suffer from PTSD
June 29, 2018
by Jo Cohen
Disclosure statement: I am currently working as a consultant for the SelfCompetence company, based in Luxembourg.
At first glance, the statistics seem overestimated. Yet, if we add up witnesses and victims of attacks, victims of natural disasters, road accident victims, women victims of rape and sexual assault, women victims of domestic violence, soldiers returning from a mission, police and firefighters facing tragedies, emergency doctors and all those facing violent deaths, etc., it suddenly seems more realistic, to the point of representing a real societal problem.
After a physical or emotional shock, victims and witnesses may develop post-traumatic stress disorder. All ages are affected by the repercussions of such violence. Following the attack in Nice on July 14, 2016, 400 children—some of whom suffered this shock before they started to talk—are monitored for this syndrome.
In the military, the devastation is widespread. “20% of soldiers returning from a mission are affected by this syndrome,” said Laurent Melchior Martinez, military doctor, during the program aired on this subject by France 5 on June 6 . In the United States, 150,000 cases of suicide have been counted among Vietnam veterans, three times more than the number of soldiers killed in action during that terrible war.
“Today, managing these traumas has become a public health issue in France,” says Muriel Salmona, psychiatrist, president of the Association for Traumatic Memory and Victimology. The question asked is simple: can one regenerate after such a shock? And if yes, how? The broadcast allowed to gauge the still insufficient availability of care in France, despite the improvements observed in recent years,, while identifying the diverse solutions offered: from in hospital psychiatric care to alternative techniques such as EMDR  or meditation outside the hospital.
The often “invisible” symptoms of this disorder are numerous: sleep disruption, nightmares, heart troubles, hyper-vigilance, agoraphobia, traumatic flashbacks, depression or self-aggressive acts that can lead to suicide, etc., so many disorders that often turn into chronic diseases. In every day life, survivors feel permanently in danger, haunted by the sounds and images that make them relive their ordeal without a break. The door of a car slamming a little too loud is enough to wake up poorly buried fears.
Video insert from the broadcast on France 5 
Neuroscience helps better understand brain disorders that occur during such traumas. Connected to emotions, the amygdala  prepares the body to flee or fight any danger. If the danger is transient, the prefrontal cortex first gives control to the amygdala that prepares for fight or flight, but once the danger is over, immediately takes it back. In the case of a serious traumatic shock following a violent attack, or when the danger is continuous, e.g. a soldier on hostile territory, the amygdala remains permanently activated, creating a state of hyper-vigilance that disrupts the prefrontal cortex cognitive functions . For its part, the hippocampus that stores the memory of events atrophies.
What are the results of the solutions proposed to solve such dysfunctions? The anti-depressants treatments recommended by clinical psychiatrists, have shown little effectiveness. Long-term psychotherapy, very popular in the US military, does not yield convincing results either. The transcranial magnetic stimulation used in Canada deactivates the amygdala and leads to some improvements.
Among the practices outside hospitals, EMDR seems promising since a test with eight soldiers in the Marseille region gave them real relief. The only problems: its high cost and the lack of practitioners of this eye technique inspired by Ayurveda. Mindfulness meditation, considered insufficiently effective practiced alone, has been associated with scuba diving. A trial conducted in Guadeloupe with 34 survivors of the Bataclan terrorist attack (Paris, November 15, 2013) allowed them to reduce their antidepressants, although the subjects do not feel completely cured.
Reduction of PTSD symptoms using a meditation technique
Among meditation techniques, Transcendental Meditation has given the best results. The effects of this independent practice build up over time. A study funded by the US military has shown its superiority over long-term psychotherapy . A recent meta-analysis has shown that it can be up to ten times more effective than mindfulness meditation (see chart). Based on private donations, filmmaker David Lynch’s foundation  has provided Transcendental Meditation training to several thousand veterans in the United States, Africa and Europe.
Besides these dry figures, the testimony of Frenchman Michael Crepin, with 22 years of Foreign Legion service, confirms the quick and concrete results offered by the regular practice of Transcendental Meditation. Like many veterans, Michael suffered from PTSD. At times, he even thought of committing suicide. “I was a soldier with a soul shattered by sufferings unseen by many, after having lived to witness the death of my brothers in arms, after experiencing the atrocity of war in the Afghanistan desert.” Supported by the David Lynch Foundation in France, Michael and his wife learned the technique. “From week to week it gives me a peace of mind, and I would even say of the soul, that I haven’t had since I returned from my mission in Afghanistan,” says Michael. His dearest wish? That all his brothers in arms could learn Transcendental Meditation.
 The program “Attacks, aggression: overcoming the trauma” was broadcast on June 6 2018 by France 5 in “Enquêtes de santé” (“Investigations into Health”) by Michel Cymès, M.D. and Marina Carrère d’Encausse.
 EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing) is described as “moving your eyes to heal the mind”. The method was founded by American psychologist Francine Shapiro. It is inspired by Drishtis techniques taught in Ayurveda.
 The amygdala is a pair of nuclei located in the anterolateral region of the temporal lobe within the uncus, in front of the hippocampus and under the peritonsillar cortex. It is part of the limbic system and is involved in the recognition and evaluation of the emotional valence of sensory stimuli, in associative learning and in the associated behavioral and vegetative responses especially in fear and anxiety. The amygdala functions as a warning system and is also involved in detecting pleasure (source: Wikipedia).
 “Impact of Transcendental Meditation on Psychotropic Medication Use Among Active Military Service Members With Anxiety and PTSD,” in the journal Military Medicine, Volume 181, Issue 1, 1 January 2016, Pages 56–63.
 Website: http://www.davidlynchfoundation.org
Article from Forbes France </www.forbes.fr/lifestyle/syndrome-de-stress-post-traumatique/>, translated by G. van Gasteren and A. Antinori