PTSD or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder occurs after someone has experienced or witnessed a traumatic event. In many cases, people suffer from depression instead of PTSD, and in still other cases, people suffer from both PTSD and depression. The traumatic event could be something that occurred during a war, the witnessing of a violent crime, or any other intensely negative emotional situation. Depression affects roughly 10 percent of Americans each year, and PTSD affects about eight million Americans. If your partner is suffering from PTSD or depression, the following steps can guide you and your spouse on the journey toward healing. However, it is important to keep in mind that treatment steps may vary depending on the type of treatment received, whether or not you get PTSD treatment for spouses, and the severity of the symptoms.
Step 1: Determining if Your Spouse Has PTSD or Depression
The first step in PTSD or depression treatment is determining whether or not your spouse is actually suffering from one of these disorders. Although you may need a doctor to help you make a definitive PTSD or depression diagnosis, you can make a self-diagnosis of your spouse by looking for a few symptoms. Many people notice that their spouses change just after going through a traumatic experience, but others don’t notice PTSD or depression symptoms until several months or even years after the trauma. If your spouse seems tired, sad, and uninterested in life, depression may be the root problem. If your partner seems to be constantly on guard, as if afraid of the trauma occurring again, PTSD may be the root cause. Physical symptoms of PTSD can include digestive issues, labored breathing, increased heart rate, or tense muscles. When you ask about your spouse’s feelings, he may tell you he is constantly thinking about the traumatic event.
Step 2: Recognizing How Your Spouse’s PTSD or Depression Affects You
If your spouse has PTSD or depression, you may struggle with a range of emotions. Most people with PTSD cannot bear to talk about their trauma, so it may feel like you are stepping on eggshells to avoid triggering a depressive episode. If the PTSD or depression is expressed as rage or aggression, you may struggle with feelings of fear or anxiety. Together, these changes in your relationship may make you upset or even depressed. You may also exhibit some of the same symptoms as your spouse. For instance, if he is having trouble sleeping, you too may suffer sleep problems. If he has lost interest in having a social life, this may cause you to also feel isolated.
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Step 3: Getting PTSD Treatment for Spouses
The issues described above are all common situations people experience when they live with a loved one who has PTSD or depression. One of the first steps in helping your spouse is helping yourself. Living with someone who has depression, PTSD, or both can be soul wrenching. A skilled counselor or a support group for family members of people with PTSD or depression can be invaluable during this time. If your spouse is willing, you may even want to attend couples or family therapy. There, you can talk about how your spouse’s PTSD is affecting all of you.
Step 4: Learning about PTSD Treatment Options
When you start looking for PTSD treatment options, you will discover there are a range of therapeutic services to help people suffering from PTSD or depression. Cognitive-behavioral therapy examines your thought processes and helps you to create new healthier alternatives. Cognitive-processing therapy also helps you to change your thinking, but it does so by encouraging you to process the emotions that originally caused your PTSD or depression. Many patients feel afraid of the events that caused their PTSD, so exposure therapy can be a useful way to confront those events and the feelings surrounding them. Through psychodynamic psychotherapy, you can focus on the situations or events in your daily life that trigger your PTSD symptoms.
Step 5: Finding Therapeutic Support for Your Spouse with PTSD
All the types of therapy discussed above are valid ways to treat PTSD, and those therapies also work on depression. To get started, you can simply call a therapist, and together, your spouse and the therapist can determine which type of PTSD therapy is best. If one particular PTSD treatment option seems more appealing to your spouse, you may want to just look for a therapist who specializes in that type of PTSD treatment. Alternatively, you can simply make an appointment for your spouse with your family’s medical doctor. Your physician can refer your spouse to a psychiatrist who can definitively diagnose PTSD, and finally, the psychiatrist can refer your spouse to a counselor. Keep in mind that there are many paths to getting help, and the right path is simply the one that works for you and your spouse.
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Step 6: Medication
At some point during your spouse’s treatment, medication may prove useful. The most popular medications prescribed for PTSD are anti-depressants. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) help alleviate many of the symptoms associated with PTSD, including depression and anxiety. If your spouse is having trouble sleeping, your doctor can also prescribe some sedatives. It is important to keep in mind that medication alone cannot cure PTSD. It can only alleviate some of the symptoms.
Step 7: Self-Help for PTSD
In addition to getting professional help for PTSD, your spouse should make some self-help efforts. You may be able to aid your partner through some of these efforts. A strong support group of family and friends can be an essential part of recovery from PTSD, and you should help your spouse to reconnect with friends or family members. Stress-free activities and the integration of relaxation techniques into everyday life can help alleviate PTSD-related anxiety. Give your spouse time to relax alone, and try to find some relaxing activities you can do together. The more help you can offer your partner, the easier the recovery process from PTSD or depression will be.