“Do you live with a Service Member who has suffered trauma?”

If a Service Member (military; first responder) you know has gone through something horrible, but they can’t talk about it, you are not alone. Isolation and withdrawal is a common coping mechanism. Trauma can lead to a disorder called PTSD. PTSD has the effect of making it seem that the horrible event keeps on happening over and over.

Psychologists try to identify three kinds of symptoms to make the diagnosis of PTSD.

  1. intrusive ideation (e.g. nightmares, unwanted memories)
  2. anxious arousal (jumpiness; avoiding situations)
  3. psychic numbing (unable to feel connection to the positive in life).

Psychic numbing tends to be the most predictive of true PTSD, and it also turns out to have the greatest impact on marital life. Life with someone who has changed into someone who is grumpy and angry all the time is difficult to tolerate, to be sure. Psychologists think cutting oneself off from others has something to do with not being able to feel safe, even though the Service Member is not in danger anymore.

Research just published (2012) found that military veterans with relationship problems are 2.7 times more likely to develop major depression and 3.7 times more likely to develop an alcohol use disorder. Starting couples counseling with a service member is hard, and staying in couples counseling is even harder. But there is hope. If the two of you can get help with how communication is working in your relationship, there is a chance that serious symptoms in your loved one will decrease.