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Caregiver Burnout affects families of veterans with PTSD

Department of Veterans Affairs
Department of Veterans Affairs
Department of Veterans Affairs

PTSD causes a role-reversal effect on family caregivers, which can strain family relationships to the breaking point.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is known as one of the invisible wounds of war because, despite its devastating effect on veterans, it leaves no visible scars.

PTSD isn’t contagious, but studies by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) indicate that the role-reversal effect is causing a similar devastating effect on the families of veterans with PTSD.

Spouses, and even the children, of veterans with PTSD have to take on the caregiver role for the veteran, and in prolonged or severe cases of PTSD, family members may feel "burned out" or experience a sense of "caregiver burden".

According to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), caregiver burnout is the experience of feeling physically, psychologically, and medically unhealthy due to over compensation of family members when caring for service members with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Because the symptoms of PTSD often get in the way of achieving intimacy in a relationship, marital problems are a common occurrence with veterans with PTSD.

To help the families of veterans with PTSD cope with the situation, the VA has outlined some care-giving tips through the use of the acronym; "PEAS" which stands for participate, educate, attend, and seek:

PEAS: participate, educate, attend, and seek.

  1. Participate in your veteran's behavioral health treatment;
  2. Educate yourself about PTSD, the medical facilities in which your veteran receives treatment, and the routines of your veteran;
  3. Attend to warning signs of potential relapses or suicide risk; and
  4. Seek social support and engage in other positive self-care activities.

Caring for a veteran with PTSD is not easy.

Because certain circumstances can trigger and even exacerbate the symptoms of PTSD, caretakers constantly find themselves on the look-out; desperately trying to ensure that everything is perfect and that nothing will upset their loved one who just happens to be a veteran with PTSD.

Veterans with PTSD withdraw from everyday life, so the caretakers wind up having to handle household chores, childcare and financial management, as well as being cook, secretary, accountant, and chauffeur.

Also, many veterans with PTSD are emotionally unavailable, which leave their caretakers feeling unloved and ignored.

Caregiver burnout, and the devastating effect it has on the families of veterans with PTSD, may seem to be inevitable for those living with traumatized war veteran. But it isn’t.

Caregivers of veterans with PTSD can prevent caregiver burnout by implementing the “PEAS” strategy of self-care.

For more information, visit the VA Caregiver Support webpage at

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