Post Traumatic Stress Disorder has a long history. In World War II many soldiers came home with shell shock. The prevailing theory then was that soldiers and families alike just needed to “deal with it”. Luckily this war has changed the face of PTSD in the minds of everyone.
Soldiers are more aware of the disorder, and it is beginning to cary less of a stigma within the units affected by combat stress. More providers are encouraging openness with treatment rather than encouraging people to go home and deal with their symptoms on their own. The Army and other military branches have set up special units to deal with the special needs of those returning with combat stress. Warrior Transition Units are set up to deal not only with warriors who have been wounded physically, but those who are dealing with the emotional scars of war.
As a spouse I have often worried about what I would do if my husband were to start to display signs of PTSD. It is not only a disorder that affects the soldier, but it affects the whole family. I knew many soldiers who after returning from their first deployment no longer felt safe without carrying a loaded weapon. Other wives would describe horrible nightmares. Most common was an increased use of alcohol and drugs and a general detachment from every day life.
Dealing with a spouse suffering with PTSD can be hard. If your spouse has developed PTSD it is important that you become educated on the disorder and become an active member in the treatment and recovery process. The more you understand about the signs and symptoms associated with this invisible scar the easier it will be to avoid caregiver burden. Attending PTSD support groups is a great way to find support and to network with others who are coping with situations similar to yours.
The most important thing to remember as a caregiver to someone with PTSD is that you are still important. You must take time for yourself. If you begin to feel fatigued or that you need some time to take care of yourself that is perfectly normal. Often caregivers of those with PTSD feel guilt at needing to spend time alone or on themselves. This is one thing that you should do, scheduling alone time or pampering time for yourself will enable your entire family to run more smoothly. PTSD is stressful enough without the guilt of needing alone time.
There are many resources available for those with PTSD and those caring for a family member with post traumatic stress disorder. Educating yourself and your family will ensure that you are able to provide a safe environment for every member of the family.