PTSD: What to Do When Your Spouse has PTSD (Updated Version)- Best Ways to Treat PTSD

Lately, I’ve been getting a lot of comments, and emails, about my blog post: PTSD What to do When Your Spouse has PTSD. There are a lot of resources out there to help our loved ones with PTSD, but some things have changed since I originally wrote the article, and the article wasn’t as in-depth and helpful as it should’ve been, so an updated version is in order.  (Also, since all of the comments and emails I’ve received have been related to PTSD for military personnel, this article will be in reference only to treatment of PTSD for active duty or prior service military personnel—although, I’m sure, it can apply to the populace in the civilian world also suffering with PTSD.)

  • First, and foremost, the primary point of contact for any vet suffering from PTSD should by their local VA.  The staff at the VA are trained to handle veterans with PTSD, and what’s great about seeking therapy or counseling from the VA, rather than a private organization, is that the VA employs a lot of prior service military personnel as their counselors and therapists.  And 100% of the time I hear from other vets, and in my own experience, that it’s always easier to talk to another vet whose “been there” and “done that,” rather than some random therapist or counselor who has no idea.
    • Also, the VA has special services for the spouses and family members of military personnel, so a wife, or husband, or children, can seek their own counseling as well.

With that said, I’ve also heard from a lot of vets that the services offered at the VA are severely lacking and not helpful.  So it may work for some, but not for others.

Sometimes for vets, who are used to a certain tempo of physicality, and who aren’t used to sharing their feelings, it can be too odd and unwelcoming to have to sit down and suddenly talk about their feelings.  The good news is that there are a lot of other options, and a lot of them are shown to work better than typical therapy.

  • Neurofeedback.  A lot of people aren’t familiar with neurofeedback but the military has been pouring millions of dollars into neurofeedback programs that can help veterans with PTSD—and there are places all across the U.S. that offer it free to veterans.
    • What is Neurofeedback?
      • Basically, a bunch of doctor’s hook up sensors to a person’s scalp and the sensors read the person’s brain activity.  They then hook the sensors up to a computer program and somehow, through the sensors and the computer program, a person’s brain can actually be rewired.
  • I’ve actually done neurofeedback before and it can actually be a fun type of therapy.  Basically it’s like playing a video game, but instead of having a controller in your hands, your brain controls the movements on screen, and the program trains your brain to act in a certain way and thus rewires the parts of the brain affected by PTSD.  EVERY veteran I know who’s used the program has been pleased with the results.  And best of all, it’s not like therapy AT ALL, you literally play videogames with your mind—yes, I’m serious!—and sometimes they let you watch movies instead and your brain controls when the movies stop and play and pause, etc.
  • Link to an organization that details all the different places where a veteran can get free neurofeedback: http://www.homecoming4veterans.org/

 

  • Meditation.  Recently there was an article in the Washington Post about Transcendental Meditation and its usefulness to veterans.  (Link here.)  Basically, the military has been conducting a lot of research into what they call a “mental toughness” program and a main tenement of that program is meditation.  Meditation allows a person to sit alone in a quiet space and just BE with themselves, and the military’s research has shown that soldiers who meditate are less likely to get PTSD, and in the instances that a person has PTSD, it can be an effective coping mechanism, either by itself or combined with another program.
    • Meditation is probably the hardest thing listed in this program.  Seeking therapy or counseling can be easy because all a person has to do is talk.  Neurofeedback can be easy, because like I said, it’s just like playing a videogame.  But meditation can be the hardest, because a person has to force themselves to sit still, and quiet, for an hour a day—without falling asleep.  It sounds easy.  But it can really be difficult, especially if a veteran has PTSD because of the images and memories of war they see when they sit still and close their eyes.  But luckily for this, too, there are programs all across the U.S. which are designed to teach someone how to meditate within a few short weeks.  (A book on meditation recommended by the military’s mental toughness program is: Mindfulness in Plain English, by Bhante Henepola Gunaratana.)
  •  Another main tenement of the military’s mental toughness program and that has been shown to help with PTSD, is physical exercise.  Everyone knows the benefits of physical exercise on the body, but a lot of people aren’t aware of the benefits of physical exercise on the brain.  The military’s mental toughness program has shown that people, who exercise at least three times a week, are more adept at handling stress and dealing with emotional issues; and in separate studies, exercise has been shown to cure depression.  A fit body means a fit brain.  A lot of veterans who get out of the military often lose that physical part of their lifestyle, they may go from working out three times a week to only once, or none.  Lack of physical exercise takes as much a toll on a person’s body as it does their emotional state.
    • A good physical exercise that’s recommended for veterans suffering with PTSD is yoga.  Yoga can be very strenuous and physically demanding, and is often done in heated rooms over 100 degrees, and at the end of every yoga session there is a fifteen minute period of meditation.  With yoga a person will be able to combine two methodologies from the military’s mental toughness program.  They will have the purely physical component of the exercise and the mental component of the meditation.  It’s a win win.
  • There are many places and organizations that offer yoga free for veterans, and it’s usually done in a group format so it can be done with a spouse, but another great thing about yoga and meditation is that it can also be done in the comfort of one’s own house, which is always an added benefit.

The main thing to keep in mind when dealing with PTSD is that there ARE options.  It’s not like after the Vietnam War when the military and spouses and soldiers didn’t know what was going on; we know what’s going on now and there ARE cures.

Michael Anthony is an Iraq War Veteran and is the Author of: Mass Casualties: A Young Medic’s True Story of Death, Destruction, and Dishonor in Iraq.

12 Comments

  1. Rebecca says:

    My husband had been suffering from PTSD off and on for the last 30 + years and it’s just now starting to get better. For the first few years after he returned from vietnam he didn’t seek any help there was no such thing as PTSD back then so he had no where to turn and it was so sad to see him.

    He was never abusive it was jut that he’d had nightmares off and on and talked and cried in his sleep and he occasisionally would have mood swings and it wasn’t until 1992 after the birth of our first granddaughter that he joined a counciling group at our local VA chapter. It helped him out a lot at first and after a few years I couldn’t remember the last time I was woken up by him screaming or crying but he still seemed to have mood and anger problems that had been brough on by the war. It wasn’t until five years ago that his brother another vietnam veteran convinced him into trying meditation ever since he has been meditating for an hour a day and he is a completely new man than the one who has returned from the war.

    I read your other article Michael and a lot of the wives are talking about a lot of the same problems i remember first facing and the only thing I would tel them is it doesn’t happen fast. I am glad that i stayed and stuck it out but there were times that I wondered what i was still doing there.

    I can’t imagine what they all went through but as the wife of a vietnam veteran I can say that what Michael says is true and meditation has helped my husband more than anything else.

    • SSG Rosaline Stein says:

      Rebecca,

      I cannot imagine what you went through as well. I am so pleased to hear that you stuck it through with your husband and that he’s doing well now. How are you doing throughout the whole process. Perhaps you should email Michael and let him know. I’m sure that your story would be a great one to read for the wives that are currently going through a similar situation. I am sure that a lot of them are going to be thinking that PTSD is something that is and can be a quick fix. Your story and I am sure more from your generation show that it can take over thirty years to cure or get rid of a disorder than can be caused in a matter of minutes. Please do share your story with us.

      SSG Rosaline Stein

      • Rebecca says:

        Rosaline I will send Michael a message right now thank you for the idea of sharing my story. I think you are right and that a lot of other spouses could benefit from hearing about my past eexperiences.

  2. Molly R. says:

    Michael I don’t know if I can convince my husband to do any of those things. What is your suggestion?

    • You’ll never know unless you try. If you’re worried that your husband might harm you if you try; then that’s a totally different issue. But the VA has options for the spouses of soldiers suffering from PTSD and if you take a trip to your local VA they’ll have a list of options for you. Often veterans are willing to try different things to rid themselves of PTSD but sometimes it can just take the right timing or the right person. In Rebecca’s story we see the perfect example of her husband being convinced by his brother, a fellow Vietnam Veteran, to give meditation a try.

      So maybe you’re right, maybe YOU can’t convince your husband to do any of those things but maybe a friend of his could? Do you know any of his friends that he served with?

      Keep in mind that no longer should anyone have to suffer from PTSD for 30+ years, with a lot of the new techniques being researched and developed, either by themselves, or combined, there should, and can, be an answer for everyone. What works for one may not work for another guy but the point is to keep looking until you find the right one.

      Email me if you’d like to talk further.

  3. Molly R. says:

    I just sent a friend of his a message on facebook and I’ll let you know how it goes.

  4. Molly R. says:

    I talked to his friend Michael and he said that he is going to tak to him but I dont know how thats going to go and I’m not sure if he’ll listen. What can I do if he wont listen to his friend either?

  5. Deb says:

    I can’t get my spouse to even CONSIDER any type of therapy. He won’t acknowledge that anything will help and seems to think he needs to suffer until he dies-and that nothing could help.

    How can I help him? I’ve tried about everything I can think of-and he’s just stuck in place and getting worse.

    Thanks-

    • Deb. Is there a friend, relative, or pastor, etc, that your spouse would listen to instead? If he’s a veteran, sometimes things are easier to hear if they come from a fellow veteran.

      Some of the things mentioned above aren’t technically therapy, does that help? Would he consider meditation or yoga? Sometimes it can be about baby steps, if the doesn’t exercise or anything often that can be the first step, is it feasible that you could get him to maybe go for a walk a few times a week? and then take it from there?

      • Grace L says:

        My husband has a appt. Feb 13.2013 at the VA for PTSD i am thring to be a support of wife but he has moved and and he say he will not come back because i drive him carzy but he don’t know why can’t give answer i love him still and want to do the wright thing to help him plus we have to kids together 7 and 10 are there age

  6. I’ve been getting dozens of emails from people, every week, regarding PTSD ever since I started this blog. I’ve gotten back a lot of emails about people who have used the tips here and have healed, and/or lessened, their PTSD symptoms significantly after trying some of the things mentioned in the PTSD articles on this sight, especially the one: “Best Ways to Treat PTSD for You or Your Spouse.” Well, anyways, I think it’s finally time to do a blog post about all the people who have found a way to turn their PTSD around. So if that’s you, or someone you know, please tell them to contact me through the contact form on this blog–please don’t comment, just send me the email. Thanks!

    • Brandon says:

      Michael,

      I don’t even know how I found this site but I’m so disparate for help. I have PTSD. I have suspected it for years but was too ashamed to discuss what was happening to me daily. I served as a paramedic, flight medic and police officer for about 20 years. Now, I can’t get away from it. I have intense flashbacks some last only minutes, others last an hour or longer. I relive calls that I have ran. I can remember every death call. I started in mymhometime at the age of 15. Too young, in my opinion. My first death call was a good friend of mine in a wreck. I can hear patients calling out begging for help, and there is nothing I can do. I went for years struggling with this by myself. Mainly because of pride and the fear that my wife and peers would look at me as weak and incapable. Now, it’s to the point I’m afraid to leave the house. I have never been violent or suicidal, but I have always felt that I would die young. I’m 37 now. I have been through a number of accidents and surgeries. Sometimes, I just want to die so that I’m not a burden on my wife who is trying to work and then come home to deal with me. I still struggle talking to her about it because I don’t want to completely take over her entire day. I’m extremely concerned and the pictures and thoughts I have seen are very unnerving. I just can’t stop them. I finally saw a dr about it and that was extremely difficult to admit. She prescribed a common antidepressant and some antianxietye meds to try. She said I likely need counseling, which I agree. Right now, I can’t function normally because of the intrusiveness of the flashbacks and thoughts. On top of that, I’m completely preoccupied with the safety of my family. I I lock our doors over a dozen times day and night, I have to know where they are all the time. I’m just tired and ready to give up. Can you help me since I didn’t serve in the military? Can you look up counselors in Alabama that specialize in first responders. I feel that I need someone who understands how we tick. Please help me. I don’t know what else to do.

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