How Does Spirituality Boost The Coping Ability Of PTSD Sufferers?

Spiritually engaged people have substantially higher chances of experiencing positive results during PTSD treatment, according to recent findings from a group of American researchers. Current evidence indicates that people with well-developed spiritual practices tend to have an increased ability to handle stressful situations and maintain a sense of well-being.

In a study published in January 2015 in the Journal of Traumatic Stress, researchers from four U.S. institutions looked at the impact that spirituality has on the treatment outcomes of people affected by post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which is probably the most well-known trauma-related mental health condition. These researchers concluded that several aspects of spirituality help increase the coping ability of people with PTSD and thereby increase the likelihood of positive PTSD treatment results.

Stress Reactions And Spirituality

God To Cleanse Us-Spirituality & PTSD-Christian Drug RehabSpirituality is a term commonly used to describe any set of beliefs that gives a person’s life a purpose, meaning or context beyond the mere facts of day-to-day existence. For some people, spiritual expression is inextricably intertwined with the practice of a specific religion or membership in a religious community like a church congregation.

However, other highly spiritual people have no religious affiliation or create their own affiliations by combining aspects of different religious practices. In either case, the distinguishing characteristics of spirituality include the development of some sort of guiding belief system and the experience of a sense of inner- or outer-directed connectedness.

Stress-Related Benefits Of Spirituality

Inside or outside of a specific religious context, spirituality can potentially provide a number of mental and physical health benefits, including an increased general resistance to the damaging effects of the everyday and major stresses that inevitably come with life in modern society. Specific stress-related benefits of spiritual practice can include an improved ability to see deeper patterns of meaning that reduce the negative impact of short-term “down” or negative mental states, an increased sense of mission or purpose, an improved ability to cope with illness, an improved sense of social connection and the development of stronger social support networks.

PTSD Treatment

PTSD treatment programs commonly rely on a form of psychotherapy called cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) to help people affected by the lingering trauma reactions that form of the core of post-traumatic stress disorder. Generally speaking, the purpose of CBT is to help a client/patient replace his or her damaging reactions to stress with new stress reactions that support health and well-being.

Specific forms of the therapy used in PTSD treatment include approaches called prolonged exposure therapy and cognitive processing therapy. Other treatments sometimes used in PTSD-oriented programs include a non-medication-based therapy called eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) and medications such as antidepressants called SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) and sedative-hypnotics called benzodiazepines.

Spirituality And PTSD Treatment Results

In the study published in the Journal of Traumatic Stress, researchers from the University of South Alabama, the University of Nevada Las Vegas, the National Center for PTSD and The Pathway Home used data collected from 532 veterans of military service to assess the impact that spirituality has on the treatment results of people affected by PTSD. All of these veterans were receiving help for PTSD symptoms associated with exposure to combat environments.

For each individual, the researchers looked at aspects of a spiritual life that included participation in organized religion, daily expression of spirituality, the ability to use religion as a positive coping mechanism, the development of a spiritually oriented daily routine and the ability to forgive self or others.

The researchers examined the spiritual lives of the participants at the beginning of the study and indexed each individual’s spirituality to his or her treatment outcomes as measured by the severity of ongoing PTSD symptoms.

They concluded that those participants with relatively well-developed, spirituality-based coping skills at the start of program typically had better treatment outcomes than their counterparts who lacked such spirituality-based skills.

Conversely, the researchers concluded that those participants with notable spiritual conflicts at the start of program had substantially higher chances of experiencing poor treatment results. Crucially, the severity of PTSD symptoms at the start of treatment did not diminish the significance of the benefits provided by well-developed spirituality.

Based on their findings, the study’s authors believe that a spiritual orientation may contribute significantly to the benefits of PTSD treatment, at least in people affected by combat-related forms of post-traumatic stress disorder.

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