Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental disorder resulting from exposure to actual or threatened death, sexual violence, or serious injury. This exposure can be a direct or witnessed exposure and is characterized by sleeping disorders such as nightmares, insomnia, or night terrors. The individual can also experience reoccurring memories, flashbacks, and psychological distress triggered by cues from the experience. Those with PTSD may also experience reckless or destructive behavior, concentrations issues, hyper vigilance and an exaggerated startle response (American Psychiatric Association [APA], n.d.). Those living with PTSD are six times more likely to commit suicide, drop from high school or higher education, and experience marital problems. Family and personal lives are interrupted, and individual productivity declines .
PTSD may result due to a failure to contain the normal stress response, resulting in abnormal regulation of the hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal (HPA) axis. The HPA interacts equally with the immune system to maintain homeostasis. Those individuals affected and unaffected with PTSD have been shown to have distinct expression patterns in genes involved in immune activation and in genes that encode neural and endocrine proteins.
Concentrations of norepinephrine, both central and peripheral are elevated in those diagnosed with PTSD. Studies have found increased concentration of norepinephrine in urine and cerebrospinal fluid, and yield results finding a dysregulation of the neuro immune system affecting both HPA and sympathetic–adrenal–medullary (SAM) as a risk factor for PTSD. Further evidence of pre existing risk factors is supported by the finding of elevated cortisol levels in the blood of the children of survivors of the Holocaust and babies born of mothers who survived the World Trade Center disaster of September 2001; thus, proposing a genetic predisposition .
Mindful meditation is the focus on the arising, maintenance, and decay of various mental experiences. By observing such change, it suggests that the meditation may give insight into the nature of the mind and relief of suffering through that focus. There are numerous types of mediation styles suggested for practice. The mantra style focuses on a single object with the intent to bring peace and contentment; thus, reducing physiological arousal. Compassion mediation’s purpose is to remove suffering; thus, eliciting positive emotion and social connectedness, and increasing resilience .
Mindful meditation practices directing and sustaining attention purposefully through concentrative attention. Mindful individuals may develop a greater ability to control their share of attention. Rather than reacting automatically to stimuli, mindfulness may aid in directing attention more productively, as in coping activities or problem solving. This practice is associated with fewer negative reactions and thoughts, after 15 minutes of meditation. The second part of mindfulness meditation is to focus on the present, and not attention to the past or future. Reminiscing on past events or what may come in the future builds anxiety levels, and may lead to pathological worry. The final component of this meditation technique adopts a nonjudgmental attitude. What thought may appear during meditation are simply noticed and attention is brought back to the current focus .
Written exposure treatments (WET) involve those diagnosed with PTSD to write down their experiences in detail repeatedly in several sessions lasting from 40 minutes to one hour. Treatment rationale is emphasized in the importance of confronting trauma memories and reminders through writing, and then presented to participants. Each writing session involves remembering the same trauma event with detail. Each session requires more detail such as initial sights, sounds, smells to how the participant felt and what the participant was think at the time of the incident. The remaining sessions included participants focused on providing a detailed description of the part of the event that was most distressing to them. They then described the event and how it had affected their lives, as in how the event changed the way the person interacts with others, how the event has changed the way in which the person views his/her life. Studies have found that certain PTSD related events respond well to written exposure treatments and yield a reduction in PTSD symptoms .