These ideas for supporting your husband through the stress of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) will help you walk alongside him. PTSD affects men and women in different ways – and it isn’t just experienced by soldiers and veterans. Firefighters, police, social workers, abuse survivors, and even ICU (intensive care unit) patients can develop symptoms of post traumatic stress.
“PTSD is caused by contact between the individual and the darkest and most violent forces of human nature,” writes Kirtland C. Peterson in Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: A Clinician’s Guide. “War, murder, rape, floods, etc. take the victim over the edge of life into serious confrontations with death or uncontrolled violence. Some individuals are therefore transformed and become, at some level, bearers of the traumatic experience.” He adds that people who come into contact with military men and soldiers are also exposed to the effects of these violent and traumatic forces.
Here are a few ways to help your husband deal with PTSD, plus tips on keeping yourself healthy and well as a wife, mother, and woman. To learn about a beautiful new book on helping men cope with When Your Husband Returns From Combat – The Warrior Soul.
I was inspired to write this article because I listened to a husband with PTSD on the radio this morning. He has struggled with the symptoms of post traumatic stress for almost 10 years, and it’s been really difficult for his wife. She wants to support and help him, but she isn’t sure how.
If your husband has PTSD, you might find the most comfort from other women who also find themselves saying, “my husband has PTSD.” Try to connect with them through a formal support group for military wives, or an informal network of friends and family.
How to Help Your Husband Cope With Post Traumatic Stress (PTSD)
One of the best things you can do to support your husband is to learn as much as you can about post traumatic stress disorder. Try to gain an understanding of his perspective and experiences by reading books such as When Someone You Love Suffers from Posttraumatic Stress: What to Expect and What You Can Do by Claudia Zayfert and Jason C. DeViva.
The following tips are just the tip of the iceberg. For more extensive information and resources, visit the National Center for PTSD.
Expect your husband not to talk about post traumatic stress
The husband with PTSD on the radio said it’s very difficult for men to say they have PTSD. It’s about pride, and feeling vulnerable. He said his mission is to try to get husbands to talk about the symptoms and signs of post traumatic stress disorder, and make it more accepted in society. If your husband refuses to talk about PTSD, he’s normal. It’s not easy for you, but it is a common sign of PTSD in husbands.
Learn how the four major symptoms of PTSD affect your husband’s well-being
A recent research study found that there are four major signs of post traumatic stress:
- Distressing recollections of a traumatic event;
- Avoidance of certain activities and thoughts;
- Trouble sleeping; and
- Irritability and vigilance.
Of those four, only two symptoms of PTSD might negatively affect your husband’s quality of life: trouble sleeping, and irritability and vigilance. Those symptoms are tied to a heightened state of arousal. Further, anxiety and depression were associated with lower quality of life in men with PTSD. Knowing that avoidance and distressing recollections do not severely limit your husband’s quality of life might help him cope.
Take care of your own emotional, physical, and spiritual health
If you’re stressed, scared, worried, angry, or depressed about your husband’s PTSD, then you won’t help him cope with the symptoms. You need to focus on getting strong and healthy as a woman, and then as a wife. One of the best ways to help your husband cope with PTSD – and to help your marriage survive – is to take care of yourself. The happier and healthier you are, the more you have to offer your husband. Coping with PTSD is a long, difficult process and can be challenging in a marriage, but it doesn’t have to ruin your relationship.
Know that it’s difficult for husbands with PTSD to process their feelings
One way to cope with PTSD is to process one’s emotions, but men do not do this easily. The PTSD husband on the radio said it’s very difficult for the men he knows to talk about post traumatic stress with anyone. There is a huge stigma about having an emotional or mental health issue as a man (or even a woman, right?).
Join support group for women whose husbands have PTSD
This is one of the best ways for you to stay emotionally, spiritually, and mentally healthy. You need to get support – and you need to join other women who know what it feels like to say “my husband has PTSD.”
Don’t isolate yourself, and don’t just rely on the internet for help coping with the symptoms of post traumatic stress. Reach out. Get help.
Be aware of the link between problem drinking and PTSD
Researchers found that men with more severe PTSD symptoms are more likely to engage in problem drinking to cope with their negative moods and thoughts. The combination of problem drinking (or alcoholism) and PTSD leads more frequently to low income, unemployment, and overall social dysfunction. If your husband is a problem drinker, read 10 Ways to Help an Alcoholic Husband Stop Drinking.
Helping Your Husband Through PTSD
Shock Waves: A Practical Guide to Living with a Loved One’s PTSD by Cynthia Orange is a practical, user-friendly guide for those who love someone suffering from this often debilitating anxiety disorder. Whether your husband is a survivor of war or of another harrowing situation or event, you’ll find ways to help him cope with PTSD.
“The inability to get something out of your head is a signal that shouts, “Don’t forget to deal with this!” As long as you experience fear or pain with a memory or flashback, there is a lie attached that needs to be confronted. In each healing step, there is a truth to be gathered and a lie to discard.” – Christina Enevoldsen.
I welcome your thoughts on helping your husband cope with PTSD. I can’t offer advice or counseling, but it might help you to share your experience here.
Your thoughts are welcome below! I don't give advice, but you can get free relationship help from marriage coach Mort Fertel.