Veterans face a myriad of challenges when navigating the transition to civilian life, from adjusting to new cultures to overcoming feelings of anxiety, depression, or substance use. However, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can present an even more palpable and complex trial to overcome. While PTSD can be an isolating experience throughout service and civilian life, it also has profound impacts on those closest to the individual struggling with it. From changing familial dynamics to its effects on one’s spouse and children, the journey to recovery from PTSD involves the entire family. Understanding how PTSD affects the family unit is the first step in creating an effective healing plan for all involved. 

Causes and Symptoms of PTSD

PTSD is a ubiquitous hurdle for members of the armed forces, and anywhere between 11 to 30% of veterans have PTSD depending on the tours served, politics around the war, personal experiences on active duty, and the number of deployments. 

While PTSD is common among veterans, it is not limited to a single line of work. Any kind of life-threatening or life-changing experience can cause PTSD, from being in an active warzone to being the victim of sexual assault or abuse, a survivor of armed conflicts of any kind, natural disasters, vehicular accidents, or serious medical diagnoses. Each of these experiences can fundamentally reshape one’s perspective or sense of self. 

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Each journey with PTSD is personal, with an individual having unique challenges to overcome and experiences to process. However, some of the common symptoms of PTSD include: 

  • Recurring nightmares, flashbacks, or invasive thoughts
  • Intense feelings of fear
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Panic
  • Intense reactions to stimuli that remind an individual of the event(s)
  • Avoidance of certain places or objects
  • Compromised sense of self-worth
  • Feelings of detachment from friends or family
  • Difficulty finding enjoyment in hobbies or interests
  • Insomnia
  • Mood swings
  • Overwhelming feelings of hopelessness
  • Constantly feeling tense, in danger, or on guard
  • Addiction or attempts to self-medicate with drugs or alcohol

One’s journey with PTSD and its symptoms is an incredibly difficult challenge to overcome. However, while feelings of isolation may be prevalent, families of those with PTSD can be just as profoundly affected by these symptoms. 

Effects of PTSD on the Household

There is no simple way to address PTSD and overcome its effects. However, these effects are rarely isolated, and living with an individual diagnosed with PTSD can greatly affect the atmosphere of any household. Feelings of anxiety and stress can permeate the air, creating a situation where loved ones feel as if they have to tread lightly to avoid causing any inadvertent stress. This can be intensely stressful on its own, and navigating constant feelings of depression, anxiety, distress, fear, and more all bring stress to the entire family. 

While one should never feel guilty for having PTSD, it is critical to acknowledge the effects that these symptoms have on the home atmosphere to facilitate effective healing practices and the creation of a comfortable living space for all. 

Effects of PTSD on Romantic Relationships

Spouses of military veterans can experience their own unique effects of PTSD. PTSD can compromise sleep schedules and produce flashbacks and nightmares, impacting one’s own ability to sleep and promoting feelings of exhaustion for all. Mood swings—especially angry outbursts or other difficult emotions—can all have incredibly intense emotional effects and even leave spouses suffering from emotional or even physical abuse as a result of these outbursts. 

Marital complications can also stem from these emotions and symptoms, and spouses may have to fundamentally change the way they speak or act, even when in their own homes to accommodate the effects of PTSD. The fatigue of navigating these delicate atmospheres and intense symptoms is extraordinarily difficult, and spouses of those struggling with PTSD have their own challenges to overcome while continuing to support their loved ones. 

Effects of PTSD on Children

Children are exceptionally susceptible to the effects of PTSD, and these tense emotional atmospheres can be confusing and impactful on a young child’s behavior. PTSD can impact how one celebrates holidays or if and when one can attend personal outings, which can have lasting implications for children. Feelings of loss or neglect can be common among children of those struggling with PTSD, and missing concerts, shows, ball games, or birthdays can all bring their own traumas throughout these formative years. 

PTSD Treatment

PTSD is a condition that affects people long after they experienced a traumatic event. Learn more about PTSD treatment options in Hawaii.

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Embracing Healing as a Family

Acknowledging the challenges that PTSD presents to one’s family can be a massive moment of transformation on its own. However, it is just the beginning, and family healing is always possible. Utilizing family programs, finding support groups for spouses of military veterans, and creating a space to openly talk about the difficulties of navigating PTSD are all vital, and working with professionals to develop these communication strategies is essential. Dedicated family programs are necessary for truly effective healing, and understanding how one’s family is affected by PTSD can be the catalyst for the dialogue necessary to overcome the effects of PTSD and emerge as a healthy familial unit. 

Post-traumatic stress disorder is a truly difficult and enveloping experience, and overcoming its personal challenges and the way it affects your family is a complex journey. However, at Hawaii Island Recovery, we are prepared to help you and your family take the first step toward a healthier future today. Our dedicated professionals champion the personal and spiritual healing of the entire self and one’s family to create a truly transformed approach to your future as a veteran. We are prepared to work with you to create a treatment plan that is tailored to your unique needs and goals. Our trauma-informed professionals, coupled with our communal atmosphere and spiritual care, all work in tandem to create a transformative experience. For more information on how we can create a program catered to the needs of you and your family, call to speak to us today at (866) 390-5070.