Academic journal article International Journal of Psychology Research

Psychological Distress in the Military and Mindfulness Based Training

Academic journal article International Journal of Psychology Research

Psychological Distress in the Military and Mindfulness Based Training

Article excerpt

"Dum loquimur, fugerit invida Aetas: carpe diem, quam minimum credula postero."

In English: "While we're talking, envious time is fleeing: seize the day, put no trust in the future." Horace


Stress can be defined as "a physical, chemical, or emotional factor that causes bodily or mental tension and that may be a factor in disease causation" (Merriam-Webster, 2001). The American Stress Institute states that it is hard to define psychological stress since it is a subjective sensation that can be perceived and conceptualized differently from person to person (Rosch, 2009).

Furthermore, stress can play different roles as that of a cause ("stressor") or effect ("strain"). Therefore, psychologists spend a significant amount of time testing different modalities to help their patients suffering from stress and anxiety. Due to the complexity of behavioral health problems (e.g., Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)) complementary therapeutic or training approaches are proving to be useful.

Service members and their dependents represent a particular group who have been experiencing an increased amount of stress due to such events as multiple deployments and exposure to combat. As stress levels in the military rise and warfighters return from theater with complex psychological presentations, the need for evidence-based practices aimed at stress reduction becomes increasingly necessary.

Mindfulness meditation is an evidence-based technique that encourages individuals to bring their awareness to the present moment. Such practice can deliver benefits of decreasing stress and pain and increasing emotional regulation. This manuscript explores the opinions of civilian and military providers working with the military population and their attitudes towards the utility of mindfulness-based practices. The results from a two-day Mindfulness Workshop in Honolulu, Hawaii are highlighted. Insight into providers' attitudes towards Mindfulness techniques may inform possible future applications for Mindfulness based trainings in the military.


The American Psychological Association (2007) administered a stress survey to 1,848 individuals. Results suggested that one-third of US citizens are living with extreme stress. Money was indicated as one of the main stressors for about three quarters of this sample. Many participants in this study also reported experiencing psychological symptoms of stress including irritability or anger (50 %); feeling nervous (45 %); lack of energy (45 %); and feeling ready to cry (35 %). Almost half (48 %) of the sample reported lying awake at night due to their stress. The participants' main somatic stress symptoms reported were: fatigue (51 %); headache (44 %); upset stomach (34 %); muscle tension (30 %); change in appetite (23 %), teeth grinding (17 %); change in sex drive (15 %); and feeling dizzy (13 %) (APA, 2007).


Due to the unique culture and persistent high wartime operational tempo, service in the United States military may be stressful for service members and families as well as for those who care for both groups. The frequent moves, prolonged family separation (e.g., deployments) and reintegration can significantly stress the individual as well as the family homeostasis. Furthermore, many service members and families enter into a military lifestyle without the tools to successfully navigate through it.

Hoge, Auchterloni, and Milliken (2006) suggest that 1 out of 10 U.S. Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) veterans typically suffer from some type of stress disorder. Similarly, Huffman, Culbertson, and Castro (2008) cite a study indentifying the type of care veterans receive from operations overseas (e.g., OIF; n = 103,788). This study suggested that about 1/3 of those that received care from 2001 to 2005 were either diagnosed with mental health or psycho-social problems. In fact, PTSD was the most common disorder diagnosed. …

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