Understanding and Treating Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Symptoms in Female Partners of Veterans with PTSD

By Nelson, Briana S.; Wright, David W. | Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, October 1996 | Go to article overview

Understanding and Treating Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Symptoms in Female Partners of Veterans with PTSD


Nelson, Briana S., Wright, David W., Journal of Marital and Family Therapy


Studies of post-traumatic stress disorder have focused primarily on veterans, generally ignoring their female partners (wives or girlfriends). Recently, clinicians have begun to identify PTSD-like symptoms in these female partners, but the literature describing this phenomenon has been limited. This paper addresses the fact that women in long-term relationships with veterans suffering from PTSD commonly experience PTSD-like psychiatric symptoms themselves. These women's symptoms and issues they face in their relationships with their veteran partners are described. Conceptual explanations of and causal factors for these women's symptoms are presented, followed by discussion of treatment approaches and issues.

Despite growing awareness of PTSD and the personal and relationship problems associated with it, many veterans experiencing PTSD symptoms have been waiting since Vietnam, Korea, and even World War II to receive help. Before receiving help, many survived with isolation, anger, guilt, flashbacks, dreams, and depression -- never knowing there was a name for their problems. Eventually, treatment programs have become more readily available for these veterans, but their partners often are overlooked by professionals, even though they too exhibit symptoms (Maloney, 1988; Williams, 1980). For example, Matsakis (1988) has described the complex multiple roles wives of Vietnam veterans try to fill and the strain associated with their attempts to do so. In a sense, these women take on the role of overworked managers of chaotic stressful families. In so doing they experience a great deal of pain, fear, anger, depression, sexual dysfunction, lack of emotional intimacy, substance abuse, and domestic violence.

As clinicians become more aware of the symptoms and etiology of PTSD, some are beginning to consider the possibility that problems such as those described by Matsakis (1988) actually constitute a type of PTSD (Coughlan & Parkin, 1987; Maloney, 1988; McCann & Pearlman,1990; Solomon et al., 1992; Williams, 1980). It is the goal of this paper to clarify the picture of PTSD symptoms in partners of veterans. Characteristics of PTSD partners, problems they face, factors instrumental in producing their PTSD symptoms, and explanatory conceptual frameworks will be discussed first. This will be followed by a discussion of therapeutic implications for female partners and for the relationship between these women and their veteran partners.

Although both male and female veterans experience PTSD, the focus here will be on female partners of male veterans. The term female partner is used to include any woman who is currently involved in a long-term ongoing adult relationship with a veteran. It is not our desire to exclude male partners of female veterans or to exclude survivors of other traumatic events and their family members. However, because of the novelty of many ideas presented in this paper, we have chosen to limit the scope for the purpose of clarity. Continued theoretical and clinical evidence will be necessary to expand on the concepts presented in this paper.

CHARACTERISTICS AND EXPERIENCES OF PTSD PARTNERS

Although each female partner of a veteran with PI SD has different symptoms and circumstances unique to her own situation, there are commonalities, just as there is similar symptomatology among veterans experiencing PTSD. Many of these women have endured severe stressors during most of their relationship with the veteran (Coughlan & Parkin, 1987), and many have had problematic lives prior to their relationship with the veteran (Maloney, 1988). Four primary characteristics or experiences are considered here: (a) caretaking, (b) gender roles, (c) survivor skills, and (d) psychological symptoms.

Caretaking

Much of the identity for many female partners of PTSD veterans is derived from their caretaking. Often they take the major responsibility for household tasks and the maintenance of relationships (Maloney, 1988; Verbosky & Ryan, 1988; Williams, 1980). …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Understanding and Treating Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Symptoms in Female Partners of Veterans with PTSD
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.