How to Tell If Your Spouse Has PTSD

How to Tell If Your Spouse Has PTSD

by Dave Hauger, November 18, 2015

Returning home is a great relief for vets and their families. There is something to be said for no longer living in an active war zone. While the joys of coming home are obviously manifold, these occasions are not without trials. The benefits may be obvious, but it is also common for an adjustment period to occur. For many, the change in scenery is welcomed and much appreciated. For some, particularly those returning from active war zones, adjusting isn’t so easy. This is why it is crucial to observe the adjustment period for your returned spouse or loved one.

Observing this period does not require spying or intrusive behavior, only knowing and watching for the signs of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Recognizing the ailment works best as a team effort and can be nearly impossible for a veteran to do without the support of family.

The stresses of civilian life are many, but they differ greatly from the stresses of combat. Everyday stressors affect everyone differently, but the key is that they also tend to dissipate quickly. Traumatic stress can be more unpredictable. A significant percentage of veterans suffer from PTSD, an invisible ailment that can be devastating for vets, even when it appears that they are no longer in harm’s way.

Trauma has no incubation period, and traumatic stress can rear its head long after the actual traumatic event. This is why it’s not enough to allow a so-called adjustment period to simply play out. Adjustment periods are seen as normal, and PTSD is anything but.

Monitoring symptoms, no matter how long after the trauma, is extremely important. It can be difficult for a PTSD sufferer to realize that something is wrong, and even harder to ask for help. For someone with PTSD who lives alone, this can be all but impossible. That makes it even more important for family members and especially spouses to assist in keeping tabs on symptoms. If you think your spouse has PTSD, remember that it might be incredibly hard for them to accept it.

Several criteria must be met for a diagnosis to be made. Subjects must be experiencing symptoms from each of the main symptom clusters, the symptoms must persist for at least one month, and the symptoms must have a demonstrably negative impact on the subject’s life. Additionally, symptoms must be present and unrelated to medication, substance abuse, or other illnesses. Obtaining a diagnosis can be tricky, which places heightened importance on tracking symptoms in the home.

How to Tell if Your Spouse has PTSD

Here are the main symptom clusters, and a few common symptoms to watch for:


  • Flashbacks
  • Nightmares
  • Panic attacks
  • Disassociation


  • Self seclusion
  • Isolating himself/herself from possible flashback triggers (i.e. fireworks)
  • Misplaced guilt

Negative Alterations in Cognitions and Mood

  • Depression
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • No longer finding enjoyment in hobbies
  • Low self worth

Alterations in Arousal and Reactivity

  • Hypervigilence
  • Paranoia
  • Irritability
  • Reckless behavior

By definition, PTSD interferes with everyday life, and if your spouse has PTSD, you will be one of the first to notice. If you have been tracking relevant symptoms, contact a doctor and seek treatment for you or your spouse as soon as possible. As with most ailments, the sooner treatment can begin, the better the chance of recovery.



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