I’ve been searching for information on a disorder that I could not even name, yet I knew existed. Recently I hit on a website that labeled the condition: Secondary Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I can’t imagine a veteran exists who doesn’t know what Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is, but most people don’t know what Secondary PTSD is. Without a name for it, I had a very difficult time finding information about it.

My eureka moment came when I stumbled across an article in the Examiner. It gave some clarity to the thoughts I had on the topic. Secondary PTSD is not clinically recognized which is what makes it so difficult to find information. It is PTSD brought on by living with someone with PTSD. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? It’s not.

Living with someone with PTSD isn’t an easy path to follow. Sometimes the veteran’s PTSD results in emotional volatility where they blow up unexpectedly and strike out at their spouse and children. In response, the spouse and kids learn to “walk the line” and not do things that might trigger an outburst. In spite of this, things go wrong and the veteran will again become aggressive or out of control.

When you live with someone with PTSD, you may notice you are beginning to develop some of the characteristics of the disorder yourself. You may respond to your loved one’s outbursts with anger, confusion, depression, frustration or anxiety. In addition, you may listen to stories of how the original trauma came about thereby suffering vicarious traumatization. While you’re expected to help your veteran cope, there is little support for you.

Fortunately, that’s changing. There are now counselors available to help treat Secondary PTSD. Treatment usually involves some prevention measures, and the usual interventions used for treating PTSD. If you believe you are dealing with Secondary PTSD, consider talking with your physician and ask for a referral to a counselor. Help is available; please don’t hesitate to ask.


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