For Your Benefit
For and about Hawaii's military

Sunday, May 9, 2004

See also: In The Military

PTSD can afflict
vets’ families

Question: My husband has recently returned from the Persian Gulf and has been very irritable, distant, unable to relax; is not sleeping; and gets angry if I bring up the problem to him. Does he have PTSD?

Answer: Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, is a psychiatric disorder that can occur following the experience or witnessing of life-threatening events, such as military combat.

People who suffer from PTSD often relive the experience through nightmares and flashbacks, have difficulty sleeping, and feel detached from others. These symptoms can be severe enough and last long enough to significantly impair the person's daily life.

In the first weeks and months following a war-zone trauma, many returning veterans continue to feel an unexpected sense of detachment, irritability, and other symptoms of stress.

Veterans may also experience a loss of interest in social or sexual activities; they may feel distant from others and emotionally numb. However, such stress-related symptoms are usually temporary.

Only a small portion (5-10 percent) of war veterans with symptoms goes on to experience PTSD. In these individuals, the symptoms continue over time and may get worse.

Friends and family members may feel hurt, alienated, or discouraged because the veteran has not been able to let go of what he experienced in the war, and they may become angry or distant toward the survivor.

Supportive relationships with family and friends' relationships are extremely beneficial for war veterans experiencing stress.

If you feel your husband continues to isolate from friends and experience the symptoms of PTSD after a few months in country, you may want to seek advice from a professional who has expertise in PTSD. Contact the VA Medical Center at 433-0600, the Pacific Center for PTSD at 566-1935 or the Honolulu Vet Center at 973-8387.

If you have questions about your benefits as a veteran,
call Fred Ballard at the Veterans Affairs at 433-0049
or visit the VA Web site at
or the Star-Bulletin at 529-4747.

Gregg K. Kakesako, who covers military affairs for the Star-Bulletin,
can be reached by phone at 294-4075
or by e-mail at


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