A groundbreaking study just found a promising way to help survivors of sudden cardiac arrest deal with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) using mindfulness-based interventions. It's a big deal because, currently, a staggering 33% (one in three) of survivors experience PTSD symptoms after leaving the hospital.
Granted, exposure therapy is a standard treatment for PTSD, but when it comes to cardiac arrest survivors, using this therapy isn’t very common. That’s because the source of the trauma is internal (heart problems, etc.) rather than external experiences. So, the safety and efficacy of exposure therapy for PTSD in cardiac arrest survivors are quite uncertain. Notably, PTSD increases mortality in patients with heart problems. So the problem is grave as it has been difficult to treat PTSD in these patients.
Thankfully, researchers from Columbia University Irving Medical Center came up with something called Acceptance and Mindfulness-Based Exposure Therapy, or AMBET. They tested it on 11 cardiac arrest survivors who all met the PTSD criteria, and the results are pretty exciting.
This therapy is a mix of exposure therapy and mindfulness interventions, and they even threw in some cardiovascular education for good measure. The best part? They did it all remotely due to COVID-19 restrictions.
After 8 weeks, 80% of the participants no longer met the criteria for PTSD. 80%! And it's not just about feeling better mentally; it turns out this therapy also had a positive impact on things like sleep quality and physical activity.
Dr. Maja Bergman, who led the study, noted that AMBET not only fills a crucial gap in treatment but also helps patients cope better and reduces anxiety related to their heart activity. Dr. Yuval Neria, the senior author, is all in for more research and bigger trials to explore this exciting new avenue.