By Ingrid Herrera-Yee
With the hustle and bustle of everyday life, it can be hard to know when your partner is struggling. In our daily interactions as couples, we sometimes misunderstand each other, tensions arise and we fight. Then, we withdraw from each other. This is a normal interaction between spouses, right? Not always. Perhaps the tension you feel is because your partner is feeling the effects of PTSD.
It is not always easy to figure out if someone has PTSD, but there are some signs that can clue you in. In some cases it can be very obvious. For instance, if your service member returns from a deployment and is still having difficulty falling asleep, wakes up in a cold sweat and punches at an imaginary foe, months after he or she returns, PTSD may be the culprit.
In other cases, the signs might not be as obvious. Your partner could gradually withdraw from activities and people he otherwise enjoyed spending time with. You might notice him having nightmares and difficulty falling asleep. He might feel emotionally numb and could appear anxious, worried, angry or moody. When the symptoms are milder it can be difficult to tell the difference between everyday stress and PTSD.
Here’s the main difference: everyday stress doesn’t last long. Your partner may feel out of sorts, anxious and have trouble sleeping because of stress in his or her life, problems at work, or in a relationship. The stress is temporary. The stress resolves and doesn’t affect everyday life in a significant way. It also may not follow a particularly traumatic event. This is not the case with PTSD. PTSD symptoms continue for longer than the average stress episode.
What to Look Out For
PTSD sets in after a traumatic event has taken place, such as the violent death of a friend or family member, combat experience, or a natural disaster. It also lasts. It doesn’t just go away, and it affects their everyday life. You may notice your partner has recurring nightmares or thoughts about a traumatic event. You may see him having trouble sleeping and eating, or he may have a marked increase in anxiety and fear.
Your partner may be on edge, easily startled and overly alert. At other times he could appear depressed, with a low energy level, memory loss and a lack of focus. He may have difficulty making decisions, and avoid people, places or activities that would normally make your spouse happy. You may suddenly feel like you are walking on egg shells, afraid you might “set him off.” You begin to worry that your partner is no longer himself. If he is acting in any of these ways, he may be suffering from PTSD. It is not his fault, nor is it your fault, but he does need help. These are some common symptoms of PTSD: