Living with PTSD and its impact on life, an intimate partner's perspective

Littles, Sabrenda
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This mixed-method, phenomenological study explored the lived experience of intimate partners of veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). PTSD was reported by 20% of the veterans from the Iraq/Afghanistan wars. PTSD symptomatology has far-reaching effects that can extend to intimate partners of veterans with PTSD. Although intimate partners often bear the burden of caring for veterans with PTSD, there is only a small body of research on the effects of PTSD on them. The purpose of this study was to obtain an in-depth understanding of the lived experience of intimate partners of veterans with PTSD. Such an understanding will help nurses and healthcare providers develop effective strategies for providing care to these individuals. Using a Web-based questionnaire, responses were obtained from 27 participants about their experiences with veterans’ PTSD. Husserl’s descriptive phenomenology was the philosophical underpinning for the study and Colaizzi’s (1978) method was used for data analysis. The 27 intimate partners described their experiences, providing information that led to identification of an overarching theme, It Has Affected Every Aspect of Our Lives, and six themes: My Partner’s PTSD Takes a Mental and Physical Toll on Me, My Partner Has a Tendency To Be Highly Aggressive and Violent, Financial Life is a Struggle, Family Life is Hard, I Am More Cautious, and I Seek Out Help and Resources. The themes provided a deeper understanding of the lives of intimate partners of veterans with PTSD, specifically their commonalities and concerns. The findings from this study have implications for increasing nurses’ and the public’s awareness of the effects of PTSD on the intimate partners of veterans. Awareness serves in the identification of these individuals and it serves to facilitate the development of strategies to effectively care for these individuals.

Social sciences, Psychology, Coping, PTSD, Secondary traumatic stress, Spouses, Veterans