“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) or other conditions.”
Living with a veteran who has PTSD isn’t easy. In fact it can be exceedingly difficult.
For the veteran, having nightmares or flashbacks about the worst moment in your life can ruin your day. Nightmares or flashbacks often leave the veterans feeling emotionally cut off from others, so they have a hard time relating to their spouse and family.
So the veteran pulls away from other people and becomes isolated.
Some veterans with PTSD find it hard to make friends, because of the feeling that “You make friends and friends die.” But their families can’t possibly understand that feeling, so the veteran and the family wind up living side by side in two entirely different worlds.
And sometimes, veterans with PTSD act in strange ways that can drive their family members up the wall.
There has been an overdose of publicity about how veterans with PTSD have inappropriate busts of anger, because of the way they respond to stress in survival mode, as if their life was being threatened.
While the “Rambo syndrome” may be good for Hollywood, there is no data to indicate that it is real. Veterans with PTSD don’t run around acting like Rambo.
But sometimes veterans with PTSD do strange things that their families just don’t understand.
You’re there to support your veteran. We’re here to support you.
Department of Veterans Affairs
Three symptoms of PTSD play a big part in this: Thinking that you are always in danger; feeling anxious, jittery, or irritated; and experiencing a sense of panic that something bad is about to happen.
That’s why so many veterans with PTSD can’t sit with their back to the door.
It doesn’t seem like a big deal, but think about it from the family’s point of view.
Every time you enter a restaurant, you have to look for a place where the veteran with PTSD can sit facing the door, and then make sure nobody sits in that seat before that veteran with PTSD can.
The same is true every time you enter a conference room, or even somebody else's living room. You never get the chance to relax.
Even after the veteran has learned anger management techniques that eliminate sudden bursts of anger, the families of a veteran with PTSD still have to be constantly on alert for the things that can trigger anxiety in the veteran.
Once something triggers the fight or flight reaction, the veteran with PTSD will withdraw emotionally, and you might as well be on another planet.
It makes life tough for the families of veterans with PTSD. In fact, there is evidence that families of veterans with PTSD begin to "mirror" some of the behavior of the veteran with PTSD. This is known as Secondary PTSD.
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (fifth edition), published by the American Psychiatric Association, does not recognize Secondary PTSD as a disorder. But it is real nevertheless. The medical community just hasn’t figured out exactly what it is yet.
Just as the war never ends for veterans with PTSD, the war never ends for their families either.
They are caught between a rock and a hard place.
They love the veteran with PTSD, but sometimes it seems impossible to go on because of all the added stress that PTSD brings into a family.
So if one of your friends, someone in your family, or one of your neighbors is a veteran with PTSD, make a New Year’s resolution to reach out to their family.
Those families are serving on the front line in the battle against PTSD, and they could use your support.
All it takes is a smile and a word or two to let them know you understand how much courage it takes for them to stand by a veteran with PTSD.
Let them know that here is a community of support for our veterans with PTSD and their loved ones. Even the little things can make a big difference.