A Military Spouse’s Guide to PTSD

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(Newswire.net — July 13, 2019) — For thousands of military veterans and combat survivors, life is heavily governed by the challenging symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The condition can feature serious emotional, psychological, and relational side effects.

PTSD often leaves veterans and their families uncertain about how to handle even the most basic responsibilities of daily life. If you’re the spouse, the uncertainty can be frustrating on multiple levels.

What is PTSD?

“Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), sometimes known as shell shock or combat stress, occurs after you experience severe trauma or a life-threatening event,” HelpGuide.com explains. “It’s normal for your mind and body to be in shock after such an event, but this normal response becomes PTSD when your nervous system gets ‘stuck.’ ”

To understand how the nervous system gets “stuck,” you have to grasp the two very distinct ways in which humans respond to a stressful event. The first, reflexive way of dealing with sudden stress is called mobilization, better known as fight-or-flight.

When mobilization happens, your heart rate increases, blood pressure rises, muscles tighten, and strength and reaction speeds expand. Once the threat passes, the nervous system calms down and you eventually return to normal equilibrium.

The second way our body’s reflexes deal with a stressful event is known as immobilization. This tends to occur when you experience too much stress in the situation, and, despite the fact that the danger passes, your nervous system is unable to return to a state of balance. Thus, your senses remain heightened and the body and brain are unable to move on from the event.

PTSD is a result of immobilization. And in order to recover from it, this response of the nervous system must be addressed and returned to relative equilibrium.

Recognizing PTSD in Your Spouse

It’s impossible for someone to understand what PTSD feels like without having experienced it firsthand. However, when you’re a military spouse, it’s possible to recognize various signs of PTSD in your partner.

Here are some red flags and telltale signs:

  • Poignant flare-ups. Classic signs of PTSD include nightmares, flashbacks, distressing thoughts, and even lively daydreams that tie back to traumatic moments from the past.
  • Severe avoidance. Individuals with PTSD will often exhibit severe signs of avoidance, particularly when it comes to people, places, events, or triggers that are associated with the bad memories and traumatic events in their past. This can eventually spill over into avoidance of unrelated things, including withdrawing from friends, family, and activities that previously brought joy and excitement.
  • Negativity and depression. PTSD often leads to anxiety and negative thoughts, which can snowball into depression. Sometimes the depression occurs in isolation, while at other times it becomes serious and chronic.
  • Emotionally reactive. PTSD sufferers have a hard time regulating their emotions. It becomes challenging for them to respond to situations and people in a manner they would under normal circumstances. They can be jumpy, easily irritated, angry, reckless, and hyper-aware.

Practical Ways to Help Your Spouse

If you suspect your spouse is suffering from PTSD as a result of service in the military, it’s vital for you to assist him or her proactively. Here are some suggestions:

  • Seek out professional help. The first step is to get help. You might be able to spot PTSD unofficially, you likely have none of the experience or skills required to properly diagnose and successfully treat it. Find the right medical professionals and support to get your spouse on the path to healing.
  • Contact a veterans law attorney. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) treats PTSD as a qualifying impairment for disability compensation benefits. However, there are a lot of complexities and roadblocks that can make it difficult to obtain these benefits. Think about hiring a veterans law attorney to help you navigate these choppy waters.
  • Be supportive. Your mission is to be caring and supportive. As well as you know your spouse, it’s nearly impossible to know what he or she is feeling. Resist the urge to make accusations or harbor assumptions, and become the supportive figure your partner needs instead.

Finding Freedom and Healing

PTSD doesn’t have to ruin your spouse’s life or create a seismic divide in your marriage. With the right approach, you can encourage recovery and promote physical, emotional, and relational healing.

The key is to take action as soon as possible and never try to ignore the symptoms.