Friday, September 13, 2013

What is Secondary PTSD?

Secondary PTSD is when a family member or spouse living with a person with PTSD begins to mirror their symptoms.  It is characterized by similar issues with anger, insomnia, depression, and other common traits of PTSD.  Lately, it seems that the new diagnosis for military spouses is Secondary PTSD.

However there are major differences between Caregiver Fatigue (as it's called) and true Secondary PTSD.  Feeling overwhelmed, frustrated, exhausted and even crying constantly are common with fatigue but do not necessarily denote SPTSD.

One of the biggest differences is issues sleeping.  Spouses often begin having trouble sleeping and experiencing nightmares.  The nightmares are commonly described as being about a traumatic event that involves their service member, but that is not the only nightmare many describe having.

Some researches claim that as many of 40% of spouses have symptoms or signs of Secondary PTSD, but hardly any ever seek treatment.  Other studies suggest that it is being over diagnosed and that nearly half of those currently diagnosed are, in fact, suffering from Caregiver Fatigue instead.  With figures varying in such a large degree it's difficult to say how common or uncommon it is.  But one thing seems apparent to me:  We are seeing it more and there is more and more information available every day.

We are no longer in this fight alone.  The medical profession is beginning to see and understand that their can be tolls on the family that may need to be treated.  So, I still suggest that people be aware that it is out there.  Be aware that living in this situation can have long term damage and watch for it.

Just as we care for our service member, we must care for ourselves.  If you are experiencing Caregiver Fatigue or think you might have the signs of Secondary PTSD, I urge you to talk to someone.  Be sure that you are being supportive and are taking care of you.  We so easily get lost in the world that surrounds our service member, we often forget our own.

If you are having difficulty sleeping, nightmares, are exhausted, depressed, emotionally spent, and feeling like you can't hope and are overwhelmed.  Call someone. is available and offers free counseling.  Keep in mind that they do require some personal information. offers free counseling to vets and their families. if a group for spouses of wounded warriors and offers support groups as well as retreats.


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