He Won't Get Help for PTSD

Ms. Vicki
Ms. Vicki

Dear Ms. Vicki,

I think my husband has been suffering from PTSD and depression. He has even said himself that he has PTSD, but he absolutely refuses to get help with it. His most common excuse is that the treatment doesn't help. 

My husband is always miserable, and I feel like he hates our family. It's been getting to the point where his moodiness is the norm.  

He's always moping around about one thing or another, yelling at everyone, short-fused about everything. He is always talking about how he wishes he could be in combat, how he'd rather be there, how much he wishes we didn't have our kids, etc.

Lately, I think more and more about leaving him. I just can't stand this hostile, depressing environment anymore! Three years ago, we were so happy and had such a nice family. Little by little, he got worse and worse to the point where we are today. I feel like everything has crumbled, and I am totally alone in thinking of ways to put the pieces back together since he stands firm in his refusal to get help. 

Is there any way to make him get treatment? I just don't know what to do. I don't want to get a divorce and have to subject our kids to that life. At the same time, I just can't live like this another day. Please help!

Sincerely, The Wife

Dear Wife,

Thank you so much for writing to me and for sharing what you are experiencing in your marriage. I know this is difficult and stressful.

I cannot definitively make a diagnosis of PTSD, but here are some of the symptoms that occur after a person has been exposed to a traumatic event: intrusive thoughts, nightmares/disturbing dreams, flashbacks and other painful reminders, and avoidance.

These symptoms can manifest in many ways and can affect a person’s overall mood and disposition.

On the other hand, it’s important to know that the changes you are witnessing could also be due to combat-related stress reactions and even post-deployment adjustment issues. Both are very common after combat.

This is difficult because you cannot make a person seek treatment. Here are some of the reasons service members give me for not seeking treatment:

  • The perceived stigma related to receiving behavioral health services or speaking to a therapist. They believe everyone in the unit will think they have a "mental problem."
  • They feel like damaged goods
  • They think no one will understand what they have experienced. 
  • It's a matter of willpower.

In other words, if they try hard enough, they can make these feelings go away by their own power and might. Yet in my practice, I have observed how the problems get worse or increase.

As the problems increase, so do marital problems, relationship problems with other relatives such as children, alcohol use, and problems on the job. I would greatly appreciate it if your husband would agree to an assessment.

Here is something that is also important to know: You need to receive help and support too. You cannot suffer in silence and bear this burden alone. You are facing burnout, and this could be a big reason you are ready to call it quits.

Remember, when one person changes in a family, the entire system will change. This means if you receive help, you can help everyone in the family -- even your husband.

I’m not holding you responsible for his improvement or blaming you in any way. However, it’s important for you to have all of the support you can receive.

Many military spouses understand what you are experiencing. It’s not easy watching so many negative changes in your husband. I think things can get better.

Solicit help from other family members and close friends who may be able to encourage him to seek treatment. Below are two resources that I think offer a great start to your support:

Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health (DCOE) 24/7 outreach center: (866) 966-1020 DCOE offers: Monthly Webinars, Training, TBI Information, Resources and PTSD treatment options.

Military OneSource It provides information and resources to help deal with the unique challenges of military life. Contact them 24/7 at (800) 342.9647. They will also connect you to a professional therapist in your community and the services are free. Military OneSource will help you with: short-term issues, face-to-face counseling, telephonic counseling, online counseling, financial counseling, and health and wellness coaching.

Stay in touch, and let me know what happens next.

Sincerely, Ms. Vicki

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