When You or a Family Member Suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

My husband, who is a Vietnam veteran, was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder a few years ago.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, is a mental disorder that happens after a traumatic event or series of events. It doesn’t occur only with those who have been to war, but to victims of natural disasters, sexual abuse, criminal attacks or accidents. Some of the Hurricane Katrina survivors, for example, are beginning to go through the stages of PTSD, due to the horrific experiences they went through.

So much of the public has a misconception about this condition. I blame this, in part, on the many unfair portrayals of Vietnam war vets, on television and in films, as deranged psychos and serial killers. While it’s true that there are some individuals with such severe problems that they may do the unthinkable, it doesn’t mean that every PTSD sufferer poses a threat to anyone and many endure their pain in silence, because they fear being categorized negatively.

Those with PTSD may not even realize that they have this condition, only that they are going through physical and emotional difficulties which they can’t explain. They often feel as though they have no control over anything. Symptoms include depression, lack of concentration, flashbacks, nightmares, insomnia, paranoia, reliving harrowing events over and over again, episodes of anger, hypervigilance and social alienation.

Physical symptoms can occur as well and include chest pain, headaches, dizziness, and immune system problems. Some people with PTSD go through substance abuse, marital and other relationship problems and social anxiety.

My husband’s experience was that he felt that he had nowhere to turn, so he didn’t get help for years, due to the stigma he believed was attached to getting counseling. He went through divorce, estrangement from his children and fear of getting too close to anybody. He developed a way of camouflaging his condition publicly, but, in private, he was suffering tremendously.

After we married, I was able to persuade him to go get assessed by a counselor at the VA, which he did and they diagnosed him with PTSD. He has since been in counseling and been prescribed drugs to treat depression and insomnia.

Counseling has been extremely cathartic for him and being able to relate to others who understand what he has been going through has helped him to open up more. He is slowly, but surely, going through the healing process now and is quite relieved that he is no longer suffering quietly.

You don’t have to be a veteran to have PTSD. If you or a loved one has experienced some trauma in life and have not been able to resolve or recover from it within a few months, then you may need to seek professional help.

Getting psychotherapy doesn’t mean you are “crazy” and it can aid you in getting better.

Treatments include personal counseling, group therapy and prescription medications for some symptoms. If you dislike the idea of being put on an allopathic medication, due to the potential side-effects, ask your doctor or therapist if you can try an alternative, natural or homeopathic remedy for your condition. Always remember to keep your doctor and/or therapist informed about anything you take, to make certain it is both safe and viable for you.

If you are the family member of a PTSD sufferer, sometimes it might seem as though you are getting caught up in his or her symptoms as well, but learn to be supportive, without being stressed out yourself. If it gets to the point that you are having difficulty dealing with your loved one’s PTSD, seek counseling, if you need it.

My husband and I have a happy marriage. He opens up to me now, because of a lot of prayer and because he had the courage to ask for help.

Don’t be afraid to reach out. It can help you to get better.

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