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How to heal PTSD spiritually?

What is PTSD?

PTSD or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is a mental health condition that some people develop after experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event. The condition can cause symptoms like flashbacks, nightmares, severe anxiety, uncontrollable thoughts about the event, and emotional distress. People with PTSD often experience these symptoms for months or years after the traumatic event.

PTSD can develop after various traumatic events like combat, sexual assault, a physical attack, a car accident, or natural disasters. While most people eventually recover from traumatic events, some develop long-term PTSD that severely impacts their mental health and day-to-day life.

Some common symptoms of PTSD include:

  • Reliving the traumatic event through intrusive and distressing memories or flashbacks
  • Avoiding people, places, activities, or situations that remind you of the trauma
  • Negative changes in thinking and mood, like negative thoughts about oneself or the world
  • Feeling detached, guilty, or socially isolated
  • Being easily startled or feeling tense
  • Having trouble sleeping or concentrating

These PTSD symptoms can range from mild to severe and make it very difficult to function normally. People with PTSD may experience depression, anxiety, panic attacks, substance abuse, or suicidal thoughts. Often the symptoms last for at least a month and become chronic if not treated properly.

Why Try Spiritual Healing for PTSD?

Many traditional treatments like psychotherapy and medication can help people recover from PTSD. However, some people find additional relief through spiritual practices as part of their treatment plan.

There are several reasons why spiritual healing can be beneficial for PTSD:

  • It helps people find meaning, purpose, and hope after a traumatic experience.
  • Prayer, meditation, and other spiritual practices promote relaxation and reduce anxiety.
  • Faith communities can provide social support which helps recover from trauma.
  • Spiritual beliefs help people gain a sense of control and make sense of traumatic events.
  • Practices like forgiveness, gratitude, and altruism help people recover from anger, guilt, and despair.

For people whose faith is important to them, incorporating spirituality into trauma treatment can be highly effective. However, spiritual practices should complement and not replace traditional PTSD therapies. Mental health experts recommend a holistic treatment approach that addresses psychological, social, and spiritual aspects of trauma.

Spiritual Practices That Can Help Heal PTSD

There are many spiritual practices and activities that can aid PTSD treatment and coping. Some beneficial practices include:

1. Meditation and Mindfulness

Meditation involves focusing your attention on something specific like your breathing, a mantra, visualization, or prayer. Practicing mindfulness meditation makes you more aware of the present and helps manage PTSD symptoms like anxiety, fear, and anger.

Research shows that meditation can lessen emotional reactivity and negative thinking in people with PTSD. Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) programs that teach meditation, yoga, and mindful awareness can also improve PTSD and depression.

Try spending 10-15 minutes daily practicing simple breathing-focused meditation. Apps like Calm, Headspace, and Insight Timer have guided meditations for beginners. You can also join local meditation classes and retreats.

2. Prayer

For religious people, prayer can be a source of hope, healing, and connection with the Divine. Praying for strength, guidance, or forgiveness may provide comfort amidst grief and trauma. Prayer rituals in community with others can also aid PTSD treatment through social support.

Try various kinds of prayer – worship, intercessory prayer, contemplative prayer or practicing the presence of God. Setting time aside to pray daily provides relief from anxious thoughts and fosters spiritual growth.

3. Reading spiritual texts

Reading passages or verses from spiritual texts like the Bible, Quran, Bhagavad Gita, Tao Te Ching or Buddhist sutras can bring hope and positive perspectives. Highlight verses that give you strength and refer to them when you feel distressed or hopeless. Study the spiritual wisdom and try applying it through journaling or discussion groups. This can foster post-traumatic growth.

4. Spiritual music

Listening to devotional music, chants, hymns, or psalms can lift your mood and promote healing. Spiritually uplifting music reduces anxiety and loneliness, expressing emotion and bringing people together. Singing devotional songs or playing spiritual music before bedtime can aid sleep issues in PTSD.

5. Yoga and tai-chi

Yoga is a spiritual practice that combines physical poses, breathing exercises, and meditation. Trauma-sensitive yoga is modified to be gentle and help PTSD survivors feel safe and gain control over their bodies. Tai-chi, qigong, and similar movement practices also integrate spirituality with movement for healing.

6. Forgiveness

Harboring anger and bitterness after trauma can worsen PTSD. Forgiving yourself, others, and even God can allow healing, though it may take time. Journal about painful emotions and try loving-kindness meditation. Seek guidance from spiritual leaders if needed and forgive at your own pace.

7. Religious/spiritual counseling

Consulting a spiritual director, pastor, rabbi, imam, or chaplain can provide wisdom and comfort. They can advise about helpful spiritual practices and assist with emotional and spiritual struggles. Many hospitals also have chaplains who support patients’ spiritual needs.

8. 12-step programs

Programs like Alcoholics Anonymous use spirituality to promote recovery through peer support, service, and belief in a higher power. Such groups help PTSD survivors abstain from addictive behaviors and establish social support.

9. Nature retreats

Time spent in nature can also be deeply healing for PTSD. Retreat centers offer PTSD recovery programs involving nature activities like hiking, gardening, equine therapy, or outdoor mindfulness practices. Being in nature restores mental health and fosters spiritual connection.

10. Volunteering and giving back

Helping others through volunteering or charity work brings meaning and joy after trauma. It draws survivors out of isolation and focuses them on using their gifts to serve. Finding purpose by supporting causes like veterans groups, domestic violence shelters, or animal rescue can aid the healing process.

Finding the Right Spiritual Approach

Different spiritual practices resonate with different people. It helps to explore various approaches with an open mind and heart to find what brings you comfort and closer to the Divine. Some options to consider include:

– Your family’s religious traditions
– Spiritual practices from your culture or ancestry
– Nature-based spirituality like shamanism
– Contemplative practices found across faiths
– Working with a spiritual director or guide
– Individual practices like journaling, art, or music therapy

While exploring, be patient with yourself and don’t feel pressured to adopt beliefs that don’t resonate. Finding spirituality that feels authentic takes time. Talk to others and pay attention to your own values to determine what spiritual path to follow.

Integrating Spirituality with Other Treatment

Spiritual practices should augment standard PTSD treatments, not replace them entirely. Some ways to incorporate spirituality include:

  • Seeking counselors, support groups or residential programs that integrate spirituality
  • Mentioning your faith background and spiritual needs to your therapist or doctor
  • Learning meditation, breathwork, yoga from trained PTSD specialists
  • Joining retreats, workshops, or services offered by faith communities
  • Asking clergy or spiritual mentors to collaborate with mental health providers

A holistic approach addresses mind, body, relationships, and spirit. Don’t hesitate to be open about your spirituality with healthcare teams. They may be able to connect you with appropriate resources.

When to Seek Professional Help

While spiritual practices can aid healing, it’s essential to seek professional help for PTSD symptoms like:

  • Flashbacks, insomnia or recurring nightmares
  • Severe anxiety, panic attacks, excessive anger
  • Depression, suicidal thoughts, self-harm behaviors
  • Dissociation or feeling detached from reality
  • Substance abuse, addictive behaviors
  • Relationship problems, social isolation

Don’t hesitate to consult mental health professionals like psychologists, psychiatrists, or counselors, especially if PTSD symptoms are severe. Therapies like Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT), Prolonged Exposure Therapy, and Eye Movement Desensitization (EMDR) are very effective for PTSD. Medication may also be required to manage depression, anxiety, and sleep issues.

With professional treatment and spiritual practices, PTSD can be managed successfully. Many survivors find new purpose and meaning through their trauma recovery journey.

Finding Spiritual Community

Don’t underestimate the importance of spiritual community and friendships in healing from PTSD. Some helpful steps include:

  • Joining a local church, temple, mosque, or Sangha
  • Participating in small groups focused on spiritual growth and recovery
  • Attending religious events, festivals, or retreats
  • Identifying a spiritual mentor like a pastor or guru
  • Joining support groups of people with similar beliefs

Building spiritual community provides social support, purpose, and a sense of belonging. It also gives opportunities to help others which aids recovery. If certain communities are triggering or stressful, keep searching for a spiritual home that comforts you.

Everyday Spiritual Practices For PTSD

In addition to formal methods like meditation or yoga, simple daily spiritual practices can provide comfort:

  • Starting your day with a prayer, sacred reading or journaling
  • Listening to uplifting music or podcasts
  • Repeating mantras or spiritual quotes throughout the day
  • Wearing spiritual symbols like a cross or rosary beads
  • Cooking or eating rituals that induce mindfulness
  • Setting daily intentions with spiritual meaning
  • Pausing for gratitude or blessing prayers at mealtimes
  • Observing spiritual holidays, fasts and traditions
  • Walking labyrinths to meditate
  • Having spiritual art, altar or mandala in your home

Weave simple spiritual rituals into your routine mindfully. They can ground and center you when PTSD symptoms flare up during your day.

Cautions Regarding Spirituality

While spirituality can foster healing, some cautions include:

  • Avoid any practices or groups that harm, exploit, or cause fear.
  • Don’t become so focused on the afterlife that you neglect living.
  • Don’t use spiritual bypassing – avoiding dealing with trauma by only focusing on positivity.
  • Avoid oversimplifying complex situations as God’s will or fate.
  • Don’t pressure yourself into rigid beliefs or rules that increase anxiety.
  • Don’t stop medication or treatment without a doctor’s advice.

Spiritual struggles and questioning are normal too. Be honest with yourself and trusted guides or clergy when issues arise. Integrate spirituality in a way that promotes mental health and wholeness.


Though PTSD causes much distress, incorporating spirituality into treatment can foster healing, growth, and meaning after trauma. There are myriad spiritual practices that different individuals can benefit from, especially when combined with professional mental health support. Spirituality provides hope and strength to manage PTSD symptoms and eventually thrive. With time, compassionate patience, and support, spiritual peace and purpose are attainable.