MCLEAN, Va. (WUSA) -- The U.S. Military is using new techniques to help reduce PTSD and increase soldier resiliency. Experts with the Mind-Fitness Training Institute (MFTI) in Alexandria are training soldiers and civilian emergency responders in mindfulness meditation. Military officials are working with this non-profit organization, offering 8-week courses that teach mindfulness and resilience skills.
Elizabeth Stanley, Ph.D., the founder of MFTI, used meditation exercises to conduct studies with military personnel. They found that regular practice of mindfulness meditation is linked to a decrease in stress and slows the development of functional impairments in high stress situations.
Dr. Gary Kaplan, founder and director of the Kaplan Center for Integrative Medicine in McLean has practiced mindfulness meditation for years and sees positive results in his patients.
Dr. Kaplan says, "Meditation in general is about being present in the moment in a non-judgemental way. That seems like not a tough thing to do but the fact of the matter is we spend a huge amount of time time-traveling, we spend a huge amount of time in our past about regrets and depression, and we spend a huge amount of time in the future. Issues about anxiety disorders and things that we either have no control over or things that have never happened yet."
Dr. Kaplan says those suffering from PTSD never fully dealt with past issues and those traumatic experiences come back to haunt them.
"There's a couple of specific characteristics that we see in people with post-traumatic stress syndrome. One of the characteristics we see is avoidance behavior, they attempt to avoid any situation that may remind them of the event or even thoughts about the event," explains Dr. Kaplan.
Others include emotional numbing, trouble sleeping, higher irritability and hyper-arousal.
Dr. Kaplan says, "They'll have situations where they hyperreact to things, so hearing the backfire of a car in McLean, Virginia gets reacted to as if there's been an explosion of an IED in the battlefield."
Retired U.S. Navy Commander Peter Griffiths hopes these techniques can help today's soldiers reach deep inside themselves to heal and strengthen their mental healthiness. He used holistic techniques along with his medical treatments to banish the emotional stress that contributed to his physical pain.
Navy Cdr. Griffiths (ret.) says, "When you can get under the surface, spend some time hearing your inner voice and just take a couple of moments just to be under that surface just to see what's bubbling under that surface."
PTSD is not just limited to soldiers. Six percent of the civilian population suffers from the syndrome, mostly from car accidents.