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Secondary PTSD

Recent figures suggest that 1 out of every 5 soldiers serving in Iraq/Afghanistan are coming home with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Most need some sort of continuing mental health care, but there arenít enough professionals available to meet the increased demand by returning Veterans.

Who picks up the slack?

The fallout from PTSD sufferers who don't get the proper attention they need falls squarely on the shoulders of that Veteran's family members. Whether it be that soldier's spouse, children, extended family, friends, etc., these people close to someone suffering with PTSD know their own version of horror and stress.

This stress on loved ones can turn into a secondary effect PTSD. Due to their loved one's suffering, they have added stresses to their own lives.

Examples include:

-Picking up the slack monetarily for Vets who can't work
-Tip toeing around the house to avoid 'triggering' their loved one
-Hyper vigilance
-Keeping things 'even'
-Adapting to variable mood swings
-Avoiding the anger associated with PTSD
-Frustration with a Vet's memory loss

These examples and more take their toll on loved ones trying to wholeheartedly support their Veteran with PTSD. The same things that loved ones may be trying to help or avoid happening to their Vet may end up happening to them.

Secondary PTSD (which isnít referenced as a listed affliction in the mental health practitionerís Ďbibleí) is being experienced by higher numbers of mental health care workers. This makes sense when one thinks about the numbers of Vets that these people try to help everyday with their own PTSD situations.

Continued exposure to the stresses experienced by others can take itís own toll over time.

The best way to combat Secondary Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is through awareness. Just the fact of knowing that it can happen can help one be watchful for any signs of distress in oneself.

If you or someone you know is experiencing primary or secondary PTSD symptoms, it is important to seek professional help through the VA, Vet Center, and Service Organizations or just sitting down and talking out your situation with someone you trust.

If necessary, continued counseling, education, and implementation can go a long way toward winning the war on PTSD.

No one has to embrace his or her own situation alone. A few generations of Veterans have paved the road for healing. We can all learn and grow from their examples.


This article is OVER but not OUT! Donít hesitate to continue the conversation by posting some your thoughts and comments to the BellaOnline VETERANS forum or emailing the Veterans Editor personally.

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Content copyright © 2013 by Jeff Valentine. All rights reserved.
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