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The Prevalence of Issues Related to Untreated PTSD

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The Prevalence of Issues Related to Untreated PTSD

Due to the shortage of research examining the connection between the symptoms of untreated PTSD and intimate-relationship issues it is hard to figure out the precise relationship between them. Some of the symptoms, such as irritability, anger, and emotional numbing, might be directly related to dissatisfaction with relationships. Trouble within a relationship might facilitate the development of, or exacerbate, the course and symptoms of the untreated PTSD a veteran experiences. A lack of communication, or communication that is combative, along with divisive relationships that impede self-disclosure and the processing of emotional and traumatic items, may lead to the onset or persistence of the symptoms of untreated PTSD.

A study performed by Riggs, Byrne, Weathers, and Litz, did focus on the connection between the symptom clusters of untreated PTSD and relationships. The study focused on the connection between avoidance symptom clusters and the decrease in the ability of a person who has untreated PTSD to express emotion related to their relationship. The study results suggest that avoidance symptoms, particularly emotional numbing, interfere with the person's ability to be intimate; something that requires the expression of emotion. The study results also suggest person's with untreated PTSD who experience emotional numbing and difficulties with intimacy have trouble with both building and maintaining positive and intimate relationships.

Helping Partners and Treatment for Veterans with Untreated PTSD

Helping a partner of a veteran with untreated PTSD involves taking a first step; gathering information. Doing so helps you to gain a better understanding of what PTSD is, and the impact is has on a family. Education for the whole family about the effects of trauma on survivors and their families is another step. There are support groups, not only for veterans, but for partners, couples, and family members. Counseling is available through the Veterans Administration. There are PTSD programs available to you through Vet Centers.

Nelson and Wright suggest that effective treatment for PTSD needs to involve, 'family psychoeducation,'  support groups for partners and veterans, simultaneous individual treatment, as well as either couple or family therapy. 'Psychoeducational,' groups  teach coping strategies, as well as educating veterans and partners about the effects of trauma on people and families. Many times, these groups work as self-help support groups for veterans and partners.

Early research encourages the use of group treatment for female partners of Vietnam veterans with untreated PTSD. Individual therapy for veterans with PTSD and their partner is an important component of treatment, particularly if the symptoms of PTSD are prominent in both people. Family or couples therapy can be highly-effective for people whose symptoms and issues exist within a family system.

A number of researchers have started to explore the benefits of family or couples therapy for both veterans and family members. Considering recent research regarding the negative impacts of untreated PTSD on families, PTSD programs available through the Veterans Administration and Vet Centers across America are starting to offer people individual, couples, group, and family programs. Perhaps the most important message for partners is that difficulties with relationships, emotional struggles, and social troubles are common when living with a veteran with untreated PTSD. Pursuit of treatment options can improve family relationships and the mental health of individuals.


  • VA Caregiver Support Line: 1-855-260-3274
  • VA's Coaching Into Care program: 1-888-823-7458

“Advancing Science and Promoting Understanding of Traumatic Stress”


Each medical center within VA has PTSD specialists who provide treatment for Veterans with PTSD. Plus, the VA provides nearly 200 specialized PTSD treatment programs. A referral is usually needed to access the specialty programs.


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