The third part of this series focuses on spouses and caregivers, who are often on the front lines of helping a Veteran deal with posttraumatic stress disorder, or PTSD.
PTSD can alter a family’s relationships. Family member reactions can include sympathy, negative feelings, avoidance, depression, anger, guilt and health problems. Dr. Jennifer Vasterling, the chief of psychology at the VA Boston Healthcare System and affiliated investigator with the National Center for PTSD, said figuring out how to help a family member with PTSD can be hard to know how to best approach.
“As a caregiver, you don’t want to tell somebody that they shouldn’t feel the way that they’re feeling,” Vasterling said. “It’s tempting. If you see someone you love that’s in pain, you want to say, ‘It’s okay. You shouldn’t be sad.’ It’s really hard for caregivers or loved ones to step back and say, ‘Okay, this person who I care very much about right now is super sad, and I’m going to be supportive, but I have to allow them to be sad.’”