Living with PTSD can be devastating, not just for service members but also for their families.
There is a well-established connectionbetween PTSD and relationship problems. Veterans with PTSD are twice as likely to get divorced and three times more likely to be divorced more than once. In addition to that, veterans with PTSD are also much more likely to commit violence against a family member.
It doesn’t have to be this way. PTSD is treatable, and it’s up to family members to encourage their loved one to seek help and to facilitate the treatment process, and the first step is gathering information.
There are four main symptoms associated with PTSD:
If you or someone you love is experiencing one or more of these symptoms for an extended period, it’s time to seek treatment. Here’s a look at several different approaches.
CBT is a type of psychotherapy and has proven very effective against PTSD. The goal is to make patients more aware of the thoughts and feelings associated with the trauma and help them develop coping mechanisms. There are two main methods of CBT:
EMDR stresses hand movements or body tapping while discussing a traumatic event. Over time, patients become more aware of these physical reactions to stress, resulting in an increased ability to manage symptoms later.
These medications heighten serotonin levels in the brain in order to help an individual deal with PTSD symptoms. Like other medications, there is a possibility of unwanted side effects such as nausea, decreased sexual appetite and drowsiness.
While a strong support network of family members and friends can make a world of difference in a veteran’s recovery, it’s important for those people to take care of themselves too, especially spouses.
Spouses of veterans with PTSD are particularly susceptible to their own stress-related disorders, such as caregiver burden or secondary PTSD. These are disorders in which the strain of caring for someone with a chronic illness creates a secondary condition in the caretaker.
Caregiver burden can occur as the result of being the only one capable of working, managing finances and parenting in addition to the responsibilities of caring for a loved one full time. Research has shown that as symptoms worsen for veterans suffering from PTSD, so, too, does the stress of the spouse trying to care for them.
Secondary PTSD symptoms often mirror those of the afflicted spouse. It can result from listening to a loved one describe a traumatic event in great detail, causing listeners to feel as if they experienced the same event. Spouses suffering from secondary PTSD can actually have dreams of the traumatic event, and exhibit many of the same symptoms as normal PTSD. Fortunately, it is also very treatable, usually through therapy, and symptoms tend to disappear quickly.
Spouses need to make sure that while taking care of their loved ones, they also make time to take care of themselves. There are support groups available specifically for spouses of veterans with PTSD. Even stepping away for a short amount of time each day can drastically reduce the stress associated with being a caregiver.
In the end, the health and happiness of your family is the most important thing. If you know a veteran suffering with PTSD, help them get the treatment they need and deserve.