The partners of veterans with untreated PTSD face many challenges while living with the veteran. Wives of veterans with untreated PTSD often take on a larger share of tasks related to the household such as housework or bill-paying. Partners or wives also tend to do more childcare and care of the extended family in general. Wives or partners may feel that they have to take care of the veteran, as well as feeling they need to attend closely to the problems the veteran experiences. Many partners and wives are very aware of the things that can, 'trigger,' the veterans PTSD symptoms, and they try hard to decrease the effects of these triggers.
The term, 'Caregiver burden,' involves an idea that is used to describe how hard it is to provide care for a person with untreated PTSD. Caregiver burden is inclusive of practical issues such as the strain on the family's finances. Caregiver burden also includes the emotional strain on the person who is providing care for the veteran who is ill. Generally, the more severe the veteran's untreated PTSD symptoms are, the more difficult it is to provide care for the veteran, and the greater the caregiver burden.
The precise connection between the symptoms of PTSD and issues with relationships remains unknown. Some of the symptoms, such as anger and a lack of feeling or, 'numbing,' have the potential to result directly in problems with a marriage. As an example, a veteran who lacks the ability to feel happiness or love can have difficulties with acting in a loving way towards their wife or children. The expression of emotions is an essential part of becoming close to another person. An inability to experience emotions due to numbing may lead to issues with both making and keeping close relationships. Numbing might inhibit intimacy.
A study performed by Beckham, Lytle, and Feldman focused on the relationship between the severity of untreated PTSD and experiences with caregiver burden in female partners of Vietnam veterans with PTSD. As might be expected, the caregivers experienced a burden that included:
- Psychological distress
Another study, performed by Calhoun, Beckham, and Bosworth, expanded on the understanding of caregiver burden in relation to partners of veterans with untreated PTSD through inclusion of a comparison group of partners of help-seeking veterans who do not experience PTSD. The study reported that partners of veterans with untreated PTSD experienced greater caregiver burden and experienced poorer psychological adjustment than the partners of veterans who do not have PTSD. Throughout the studies, caregiver burden increased with the severity of the symptoms veterans with untreated PTSD experienced. Again – the worse a veterans symptoms of untreated PTSD, the greater the caregiver's burden.
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