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How Ptsd Affects Military Families

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How Might A Veterans Ptsd Symptoms Affect His Or Her Children

Re-experiencing symptoms

Individuals who have PTSD often re-experience traumatic events through vivid daytime memories or dreams. Re-experiencing can occur suddenly and without intention, and it is typically accompanied by intense emotions, such as grief, guilt, fear, or anger. Sometimes these intrusions can be so strong or vivid that the individual believes the trauma is reoccurring.

These symptoms can be frightening not only for the individual experiencing them but also for children who witness them. Children may not understand what is happening or why, and they may start to worry about their parents well-being. Children may also worry that their parent cannot properly care for them.

Avoidance and numbing symptoms

Because the re-experiencing symptoms characteristic of PTSD are so uncomfortable, people who have been traumatized tend to try to avoid thinking about the traumatic event. They may also attempt to avoid places and experiences that could trigger upsetting memories. As a result, individuals with PTSD may not want to do things or go places, such as to the store, to the movies, or out to dinner. Children may feel that their parent does not care about them when the reality is that the parent is avoiding places that are just too frightening. In addition to these active avoidance strategies, traumatized individuals often struggle with experiencing positive emotions and may feel cut off from other people, including family members.

Hyper-arousal symptoms

What A Family Can Do

A family can do a number of things to cope with a loved one’s PTSD, including:

  • Understand that behavior does not necessarily equal true feelings. Your loved one may want to go out with friends and family but is too afraid of running into upsetting thoughts and memories. It is important for family members to understand their loved one’s symptoms and the impact of those symptoms on behavior.
  • Know the triggers. A family also needs to be aware of their loved one’s triggers. For example, if you know that the nightly news on the TV always triggers your loved one’s PTSD symptoms, you may want to schedule other activities during that time so there is no way that your loved one will experience that particular trigger.
  • Consider changing routines. Family members may also need to change their routines based on a loved one’s symptoms. For example, if your loved one tends to have nightmares, try to figure out a way to wake them up without touching them. Some people with PTSD may respond as though they are being attacked.
  • Get help. Support groups and/or couples counseling may be a good way to learn how to communicate with your loved one, as well as cope with PTSD symptoms. They may also help you find the best way to encourage your loved one to get help if they haven’t already.

Ptsd Affects The Entire Family

When a loved one withdraws, is frequently angry or easily angered, flies into rages or quiet depressions, or any other manifestation of PTSD symptoms, the entire family is affected. You may find that counseling is needed not just for your loved one, but for those dealing with the loved ones condition.

Family counseling, marriage therapy, and other professional help is crucial for any military family confronting post-traumatic stress disorder.

Treating Ptsd Depression And Anxiety With Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation Therapy

Many military families utilize medications or other mental health treatments to combat their anxiety, PTSD, and depression after military service. Unfortunately, traditional treatments do not work for everyone, and you may feel that no solution can provide adequate results for your health. Some patients may be doing everything they can to feel bettermeeting with a psychiatrist, taking various medications, undergoing PTSD treatmentbut depression, anxiety, and stress continue to take control of their lives. Their prescription medication may alleviate some of their symptoms, but they also bring their own assortment of side effects. 

Despite their best efforts, many military families experience adverse symptoms of mood disorders that affect their careers, studies, income, and relationships. 

Thankfully, TMS therapy is an alternative solution that has helped thousands of military members regain control of their lives. 

Essay About Invisible Wounds: A Glimpse Into Ptsd

PTSD and Personal Injury Claims

In recent years the United States military has experienced a PTSD epidemic due to the large amounts of soldiers and marines returning home from combat with this disorder. This epidemic has taken the lives of hundreds of fighting men and woman due to the heightened suicide rate that has been caused due to side effects of PTSD. In fact, in 2012 more soldiers and marines committed suicide than were killed in combat

Helpful Solutions For Family Members

Whenever you are dealing with someone with a chronic illness, it is important to remember you cannot help them if you are not well yourself. Maintaining your own physical and mental health during this crisis is important for everyone.

Crisis naturally brings out all of our bad behaviors and habits. By recognizing what is happening, you can make some efforts to correct the situation:

How To Support A Spouse With Ptsd

You cannot cure someone you love of PTSD. While your support is helpful, you are not the answer. Everyone no matter what theyve been through is responsible for their own health.

In the case of PTSD, professional help will be required, but that is not your role. There are, however, some things you can do to help support your loved ones recovery from PTSD.

Maintaining a healthy marriage can be a challenge on the good days. Trying to keep it together while your spouse is battling PTSD is an even greater challenge. Realizing that PTSD affects you, as well, and that your loved one needs your help to get through the recovery is a good first step. Once you are committed to facing PTSD together, you should try to:

You should always encourage your loved one to get treatment for PTSD and support their efforts to follow their treatment program. PTSD does not usually resolve itself. It requires behavioral therapy to process the emotions associated with the traumatic event and get the brain unstuck. There are several treatment options available including cognitive behavioral therapy, exposure therapy and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing .

What Military Spouses And Children Should Know About Seeking Help For Ptsd

Over the years, military officials have tried to destigmatize getting professional help for mental health issues, especially those connected with military service. In spite of this, it can be human nature to fear things we dont understand.

And some of the symptoms of PTSD are so commonly misinterpreted, misunderstood, or simply not acknowledged. They may be part of a bigger problem that seeking help can feel unnecessary even though the problems are intense. They are sometimes identified as something other than a symptom of the condition.

Some people experiencing PTSD dont understand whats happening to them when symptoms appear. They may feel the need to withdraw, or have temper flare-ups for no good reason, anger management issues in general, nightmares, flashbacks, etc.

Its no surprise that the members of a military family would have a difficult time looking at certain PTSD symptoms objectively when the sufferer seems unreachable, when they lash out or withdraw, etc. But these behaviors are symptomatic of PTSD. Not everyone who experiences trauma develops PTSD, but a significant number of people who experience trauma are at risk.

Sometimes arriving at the conclusion that help is needed is the hardest part. It can be difficult to know what PTSD symptoms are, what they mean, and how to properly manage them, or provide support for those who are trying to manage the symptoms properly.

Heightened Risks Perpetuated During Deployment

Among high-risk families for PTSD, military families endure especially challenging stressors due to extended deployments that often last for a year or more. During these periods, families must naturally adapt to the absence of the deploying service member spouse with new roles, rules and hierarchies. These adaptations may manifest into new parental styles of discipline as the children age, and life circumstances may also influence how the remaining spouse will manage finances and organize other family activities. Meanwhile, if the service member spouse is deploying for combat operations, they will likely be exposed to multiple traumatic events including near-death experiences, perhaps witnessing the death of close friends, and often observing human atrocities that they would simply prefer to forget.

Does Tms Therapy Have Side Effects

Side effects of TMS are minimal compared to other treatments. Many TMS patients do not experience any side effects. Others report a mild headache, scalp discomfort, tingling of the facial muscles, or lightheadedness. However, less than 5% of patients choose to discontinue TMS treatment due to side effects. 

Effects Of Ptsd On Families

Effects of PTSD on families

PTSD can make somebody hard to live with. Living with someone who is easily startled, has nightmares, or avoids social situations can take a toll on the most caring family members. Research on PTSD has shown the harmful impact of PTSD on families. Read more here.

When a child’s parent has PTSD

A parent’s PTSD symptoms are directly linked to their child’s responses. This section describes how caregivers’ PTSD symptoms impact children and outlines some of the common problems experienced by children of Veterans or other adults with PTSD. This section also provides recommendations on how to cope with these difficulties. Learn more.

Partners of Veterans with PTSD

PTSD can affect how couples get along with each other. It can also directly affect the mental health of partners. This section describes common problems in relationships where one or both partners has PTSD and outlines essential information about helping couples face these problems. Learn how to get support.

How deployment stress affects families

Even when we are not at war, military families often deal with stresses such as frequent moves or parents’ absence. Deployment to war creates additional issues for a family to handle. 

If your partner is reluctant to seek treatment, you can find support for yourself in how to help your partner too.

If you have suicidal thoughts

If you or someone you know has suicidal thoughts, get help right away through one or more of these resources:

The Impact On The Family

Stressors that families can experience when their veteran loved one has a substance abuse disorder can include caregiver burden, which may manifest as:1

  • Feeling sympathy and worry for their loved one.
  • Depression.
  • Frustration.
  • Sadness.

Understanding how substance abuse and associated struggles affect veterans is important to encourage them to seek help. However, its equally important to understand how these disorders can contribute to stress in military families and affect the health of family members.

As their veteran deals with these mental or substance disorders, spouses, children, parents, and siblings of service members may often struggle right alongside their loved ones.1

Behavioral changes like drinking a lot or abusing drugs, alongside personality changes from a traumatic brain injury or PTSD, can be very stressful and intense on families.

Depression among family members of the veteran can be common because they realize their loved one was not as safe as they had hoped when they were deployed. This can cause a shift in their world view, where they feel grief from loss of that feeling of safety.1

And, unfortunately, substance abuse and/or mental health disorders can, in some instances, increase the likelihood of emotional or physical violence from the military veteran.2

Learning To Heal Ptsd And Secondary Trauma

One Person

June is PTSD awareness month. While continued attention on PTSD is vital for our service members and veterans, I hope to also create awareness about how PTSD affects the entire family.

Family members of people with PTSD can suffer from secondary stress and experience some of the same debilitating effects as PTSD. They may experience depression, anxiety, and even susbstance abuse. Attempting to cope with the challenges of caring for a loved one with PTSD can bring on those symptoms. I am one of those family members. While my husband has come a long way in dealing with his challenges, there are still issues that we face.

Stressful situations can cause my husband to become frustrated and angry. Therefore, I sometimes attempt to prevent these triggers by handling the situations myself. This can make me feel worn down and discouraged. It’s sometimes difficult to understand what my husband is feeling when he becomes withdrawn and closed off emotionally.

If we are not careful, feelings of resentment and anger can emerge. Why is he so upset? What did I do wrong? Is there any hope? It can be difficult to not take his actions personally. It’s easy to feel discouraged and anxious about a situation that doesn’t seem to improve.

Healing Everyone

While the family member who first had PTSD needs help, it is also crucial to heal the entire family. When the spouse of a PTSD sufferer is revitalized and strong, he or she can be a better support for the family.


Family And Caregivers Need Help Too

Having a loved one who suffers from PTSD symptoms is stressful, but in some cases that stress can complicate a caregivers own needs and/or mental health issues. You may not recognize how stressful it can be to support a loved one with PTSD or any mental health concern. But rest assured, these circumstances can and often do require loved ones and caregivers to seek out their own support and treatment.

The stress of these circumstances may not grow to be too much at first. But over time it may be necessary to seek counseling, respite care to give a break to the primary caregiver, or take down time to recover from the exhausting job of helping someone with PTSD get their own life back on track.

Its easy to neglect your own physical and emotional well-being when caring for another. Dont make the mistake of believing that you are not subject to depression, anxiety, or other issues because of the demands on you as the loved one. No one is immune to burnout, frustration, anger, or other strong emotions and reactions related to caring for the family member with PTSD.

Joe Wallace is a 13-year veteran of the United States Air Force and a former reporter for Air Force Television News

Related Articles

Ptsd Statistics: Prevalence Among Veterans

Though many researchers have sought to understand the prevalence of PTSD among military veterans, their efforts have produced divergent PTSD statistics. Because the field of psychiatry has defined and assessed PTSD in various ways over time, estimates of prevalence vary widely.

In fact, in one recent meta analysis of thirty-two scientific articles, researchers found the estimated incidence of PTSD among veterans ranged from modest figures such as 1.09% to high rates 34.84%. Clearly, determining the true prevalence of PTSD among veterans will require much further research.

However, some high-quality studies may shed some light on the matter:

  • In a 2017 study involving 5,826 United States veterans, 12.9% were diagnosed with PTSD. This is a striking high rate compared to the incidence of PTSD among the general population: Just 6.8% of the U.S. population will experience PTSD at any point in their lives. Across the entire U.S., only about 8 million U.S. adults have PTSD in a given year.
  • In a 2014 study involving 3,157 United States veterans, 87% reported exposure to at least one potentially traumatic event. On average, veterans reported 3.4 potentially traumatic events during their lifetime.

What Increases Risk For Ptsd

People serving during wartime are likely to be exposed to numerous traumatic or highly stressful events. However, not everyone eventually goes on to develop PTSD.

Some people may be more vulnerable to developing PTSD after coming into contact with a traumatic event, whereas others may be more resilient. Some factors that may protect someone from developing PTSD have been identified.

Recovering From Survivors Guilt

Healing doesnt mean that youll forget what happened or those who died. And it doesnt mean youll have no regrets. What it does mean is that youll view your role more realistically.

  • Is the amount of responsibility youre assuming reasonable?
  • Could you really have prevented or stopped what happened?
  • Are you judging your decisions based on complete information about the event, or just your emotions?
  • Did you do your best at the time, under challenging circumstances?
  • Do you truly believe that if you had died, someone else would have survived?

Honestly assessing your responsibility and role can free you to move on and grieve your losses. Even if you continue to feel some guilt, instead of punishing yourself, you can redirect your energy into honoring those you lost and finding ways to keep their memory alive. For example, you could volunteer for a cause thats connected in some way to one of the friends you lost. The goal is to put your guilt to positive use and thus transform a tragedy, even in a small way, into something worthwhile.

Understanding A Veteran With Ptsd

Servicemen and women oftentimes face unique challenges when leaving active duty and readjusting to civilian life.

As explained by U.S. Veterans Magazine, these challenges include

  • discovering ways to re-establish their roles within the family,
  • having to find and obtain a civilian job ,
  • and adjusting to a life that involves making their own choices versus being told what to do, how to do it, and when.

However, sometimes soldiers also return home with challenges related to their mental wellbeing as a result of what theyve witnessed while on active duty. And one of the most common mental challenges is post-traumatic stress disorder .

Ptsd Time Frame: How Symptoms Develop And Last

In the days immediately following a traumatic event, people often experience symptoms similar to those described above. However, PTSD involves the sustained presence of these mental health problems over a longer period.

In order to meet diagnostic criteria for PTSD, veterans symptoms must last for at least one month; often, they persist for years. Additionally, symptoms do not necessarily begin immediately following the trauma. While most individuals with PTSD experience symptoms within three months of the traumatic events in question, symptoms can also appear post-deployment. For veterans with PTSD, symptoms may emerge weeks or months after a period of combat or active-duty service.

What Are The Signs Of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder

A wide variety of symptoms may be signs that you are experiencing posttraumatic stress disorder. The following are some of the most common symptoms of PTSD that you or those around you may have noticed:

  • Feeling upset by things that remind you of what happened
  • Having nightmares, vivid memories, or flashbacks of the event that make you feel like its happening all over again
  • Feeling emotionally cut off from others
  • Feeling numb or losing interest in things you used to care about
  • Feeling constantly on guard

How Do Children Respond

Laughs for the troops

A parents PTSD symptoms can be directly linked to their childs responses. Children can respond in certain ways:

  • The over-identified childmight feel and behave just like their parent as a way of trying to connect with the parent. Such a child might show many of the same symptoms as the parent with PTSD.
  • The rescuer childtakes on the adult role to fill in for the parent with PTSD. The child acts too grown-up for his or her age.
  • The emotionally uninvolved childgets little emotional help. This results in problems at school, depression, anxiety , and relationship problems later in life.

Risk Factors During And After Trauma

Specific risk factors that happen during and after combat can also affect a persons chances of developing PTSD. Those include:5,7

  • Exposure to combat. People who are deployed and experience combat have a higher rate of PTSD than those who were deployed but did not experience combat.
  • Worry about family. People who were away from their families for longer times have a higher risk of developing PTSD.
  • Discharging a weapon. Discharging a weapon can create traumatic memories that increase the risk of PTSD.
  • Witnessing an injury or death during deployment. Viewing injury or death can create feelings of intense fear, which is a strong risk factor for PTSD.
  • Being attacked, fired at, or handling human remains. Research shows that people who have been exposed to any of these traumatic experiences are more likely to develop PTSD.
  • Lack of post-deployment support. A positive and supportive environment after exposure to trauma is necessary for recovery. Social support is correlated with a lower risk of PTSD.
  • Subsequent life stress. People who experience life stressors, such as unemployment or a lack of resources, may have a higher risk of PTSD.
  • Comorbid psychological problems. Research has been mixed regarding the effect of co-occurring psychological problems on PTSD, but some studies have shown that people with depression have a higher chance of developing PTSD.


Avoidance Of Reminders Of Traumatic Events

Because recalling traumatic events can be emotionally distressing, many individuals with PTSD avoid people, places, or things that might remind them of these experiences. Either intentionally or unconsciously, people with a diagnosis of PTSD typically steer clear of stressors that might trigger the painful thoughts and feelings associated with their trauma.

Among veterans with PTSD, this avoidance might involve resisting discussion of their military service or withdrawing from friendships with fellow service members. Post-deployment, veterans may rebuff questions from family members and loved ones about their combat experiences.

For many veterans with PTSD, seeking help may be extremely challenging, as doing so will likely involve direct discussion of their trauma. This barrier, coupled with our cultures general stigma regarding mental illness, causes far too many veterans to avoid the mental health care they need.

Military Families And Ptsd

The Department of Veterans Affairs official site describes post-traumatic stress disorder as an anxiety disorder associated with an overactive fight or flight response. The Mayo Clinic defines PTSD as a mental health condition triggered by a terrifying event either experiencing it or witnessing it.

What do military family members need to understand about post-traumatic stress disorder to be as fully supportive and helpful as possible? There are several major factors to keep in mind. But the first and foremost thing to be concerned with is that the person experiencing PTSD receives professional help and does not try to manage or cope without doing so.

Trying to cope with PTSD without a professionals help is a huge mistake. A trained professional can offer insights and perspective. They make it possible for the patient to receive medication that can dramatically improve certain problems associated with anxiety disorders in general where appropriate to use.

How Ptsd Affects Children

Children of parents with PTSD tend to exhibit more behavioral problems than other children. When one member of a family experiences PTSD, other family members suffer from secondary stress. Family members may even experience similar effects to the sufferers of PTSD themselves, including anxiety and depression. This leads to substance abuse for some. These effects can occur in the other parents as well as in children in a family where one parent is grappling with PTSD.

Whether a child is experiencing PTSD themselves as a result of a traumatic event or theyre living with a parent who has PTSD, treatment options can help them. A child who has a learning disability and suffers from the effects of PTSD may need advocacy and accommodations to help them succeed in the classroom. Helping your child access treatment if they are in this situation is important, both now and for their future.

Rates Of Ptsd Among Veterans By War

Some research suggests that rates of PTSD differ among veterans who served in different military conflicts. Indeed, there is compelling statistical evidence that military personnel who served in certain wars were somewhat more likely to develop PTSD symptoms.

  • Vietnam War Veterans: The National Vietnam Veterans Readjustment Study, conducted from 1986 to 1988, found that 15.2% of men and 8.1% of women who served in Vietnam met diagnostic criteria for PTSD. Additionally, the estimated lifetime prevalence of PTSD was 30.9% among men who served in Vietnam and 26.9% among women. In a more recent study, researchers also found that PTSD was more prevalent among Vietnam veterans who had served in the theater of combat.
  • Gulf War Veterans: In a study of over 11,000 Gulf War veterans conducted from 1995 to 1997, researcher Han K. Kang and his colleagues found that 12.1% had PTSD at the time they were surveyed.
  • Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans: In a 2008 study, researchers at the RAND Corporation analyzed the psychological health of 1,938 veterans of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom . OEF commenced in Afghanistan in 2001, whereas OIF launched in 2003. Among these veterans, 13.8% met criteria for PTSD at the time they were assessed.

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