A military member’s homecoming is almost always an exciting, jubilant event that restores stability and peace of mind. But spouses with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can return home a changed person.
About one in five military members returning from Iraq and Afghanistan report PTSD symptoms, but only half typically seek treatment, according to a 2008 study by the Rand Corporation.
Spouses can face an array of challenges when a loved one begins to exhibit symptoms of the disorder. But there are paths to treatment and help for spouses and service members alike.
Traumatic, shocking or disturbing events can cause PTSD. Witnessing deaths of fellow service members or surviving a life-threatening event may cause PTSD, too. Mainly, PTSD anxiety is rooted in reliving the traumatic event.
Several symptoms may come and go, but the disorder will remain. Common symptoms can include:
If these symptoms sound familiar and occur frequently your spouse may have PTSD, which requires professional help. Take a sensitive, affectionate approach that shows you care. Something like, “It seems something is bothering you. Let’s talk to the VA and our primary physician” can be effective.
If you’re a wife talking to your husband, your words could either trigger a macho response or guide him in the right direction. Men with PTSD have tendencies to get embarrassed, tight-lipped or aggressive. Tell your husband that together you should seek help for the sake of your marriage and family.
Therapeutic treatments, which may be covered by the VA, are designed to help PTSD veterans talk through their symptoms. Whether a veteran chooses group, family, exposure or cognitive therapy is up to him or her. Guidelines for talking to doctors about PTSD may help, too.
Regardless of the treatment your veteran spouse chooses, be supportive.
At the same time, feel comfortable introducing your spouse to additional treatment options. An abundance of veteran organizations make it their mission to get veterans helping other veterans. Veterans of Foreign Wars, Wounded Warrior Project and Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America are great resources to suggest to your spouse for developing connections with other veterans.
What may be seen as “alternative treatments” in treating PTSD have gained traction in recent years. Yoga and acupuncture introduce meditative or therapeutic relief, especially when combined with other therapies. With the finding that antipsychotic and antidepressant medications aren’t as effective as desired, some veterans pursue these alternative treatments in conjunction with therapy or medication.
Encouraging your spouse to maintain a healthy lifestyle is important to overcoming PTSD symptoms. If the timing for encouragement doesn’t seem right, at least ensure that your spouse does not pick up unhealthy habits. Eating right, exercising and staying employed are keys to good health and will possibly minimize PTSD symptoms.
With as much as 20 percent of veterans coming home with PTSD, spouses want to be prepared to help their veteran spouse deal with PTSD. The National Center for PTSD is loaded with resources.
Figuring out how to help your veteran spouse cope with PTSD may take time. Don’t try to rush your husband or wife to therapy. Remind them you’re there to help and show them affection when they’re ready. Together, the two of you can alleviate PTSD’s effects, and keep your relationship healthy.
Photo thanks to BBCworldservice via Flickr Creative Commons
Helping your military spouse through his/her PTSD symptoms can be a difficult road. But, what if your spouse is fighting a different battle? Breast Cancer. According to a 2009 study, military women are 20 to 40 percent more likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer than other women in the same age groups. Here’s how breast cancer and the military collide.
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