Academic journal article Journal of Nursing Scholarship

Experiences of Military Spouses of Veterans with Combat-Related Posttraumatic Stress Disorder

Academic journal article Journal of Nursing Scholarship

Experiences of Military Spouses of Veterans with Combat-Related Posttraumatic Stress Disorder

Article excerpt

Spouses are a major support to married veterans who are experiencing symptoms of combat-related posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD; Dekel, Goldblatt, Keidar, Solomon, & Polliack, 2005). Symptoms of PTSD may occur after exposure to a traumatic event, such as threatened death to oneself or others, the death of others, serious or threatened injury to oneself, or actual or threatened physical or sexual violence (U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, 2015). Although there have been international studies (Ahmadi, Azampoor-Afshar, Karami, & Mokhtari, 2011; Dekel et al., 2005; Dirkzwager, Bramsen, Ader, & van der Ploeg, 2005; Franciskovie et al., 2007; McLean, 2006; Westerink & Giarratano, 1999; Woods, 2010) in spouses of veterans from previous combat operations, a recent review of the literature (Yambo & Johnson, 2014) revealed no published studies of the essence of the experience in U.S. spouses living with veterans who developed symptoms of PTSD from post-9/11 overseas contingency operations (OCO).

Veterans who supported OCO had unique experiences when compared to veterans from previous combat. What makes OCO unique is that they are the first sustained ground combat, since the Vietnam War (Hoge et al., 2004), with 75% of veterans wounded by explosive devices (Helwick, 2011), more married veterans in families with more children, and accessible cutting-edge medical care (Glasser, 2011). Further what makes OCO different from previous operations for the spouses is that more military families are negatively impacted by PTSD, which contributes to weakened family bonds and hostility toward partners and military children (Peterson, Lester, Calohan, & Azad, 2014). To fill this gap in knowledge, the purpose of this study was to describe the experiences of military spouses living with a veteran with PTSD from OCO. According to the World Health Organization (WHO, 2013a), it is critical to not only meet the mental health needs of individuals, but to employ integrated strategies to coordinate holistic care to support mental well-being. Understanding the spouses' perspective will be useful to international clinicians and researchers who are funding, developing, and testing interventions that could potentially prevent mental health problems among military families. Further, this study may benefit mental health practitioners who care for veterans and their spouses as they manage the symptoms of PTSD.

Background

Globally, PTSD prevalence rates span from 0.3% to 6.1% in the general population and 15.4% in conflictaffected populations (WHO, 2013b). In the United States, PTSD impacts about11% to 20% of the 2 million veterans returning from OCO (U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, 2015) and almost 1.1 million military caregivers provide care to post-9/11 veterans (RAND Corporation, 2013). Living with a veteran with PTSD can have a negative impact on the mental health of military partners. Secondary traumatic stress, psychological distress, burden (Yambo & Johnson, 2014), marital and relationship dis-satisfaction, difficulty coping (Hamilton, Nelson Goff, Crow, & Reisbig, 2009), and domestic violence (Dekel et al., 2005) have been documented. Despite the emerging evidence in family resiliency (Peterson et al., 2014), most research is limited to investigations on the impact of trauma on the primary victim-the veteran with symptoms of PTSD. However, the spouse's perspective is critical to enhance family resiliency.

Philosophical Framework

To investigate the phenomenon of interest, Husserlian phenomenology was employed. Phenomenology is a research methodology that is used to understand the essence of a phenomenon (Munhall, 2007), in this case, the participant's perspective of living with a veteran with PTSD. This philosophical framework stems from Husserl's posit that consciousness is connected to human experiences. Thus, phenomenology refers to the study of the participant's perspective of their lived experience. …

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