Secondary PTSD? Caregiver Burden?


Secondary PTSD? Caregiver Burden?
What are they?

caregiver burden, caregiver, veteran, ptsd, tbi, va, ptsd



Earlier this week I had the opportunity to attend a Caregiver Training that was hosted by the VA Caregiver Support but taught by a very knowledgeable (and highly patient) third party affiliated nurse and social worker. I must say that out of all training, meetings and workshops I’ve attended, I found this one to be really interesting and entertaining; particularly because it wasn’t filled with a bunch of wives trying to win a pissing contest on who’s husband’s injuries are worse.  I thoroughly enjoyed it and think the hour-and-half drive to the Convention center (and home again) were completely worth it!

Plus I was able to meet some really awesome people, and I hope I get to stay in contact with them!

So anyways, during this training a term was brought up. A term I have heard before, but never really paid much attention to.

Secondary PTSD

We discussed it during the training, and naturally I just had to research it some more once I got home. (I am such a NERD. It’s really unbelievable and quite pathetic sometimes. But I’m fairly certain I’d go insane if I didn’t have my curiosity that needs constant feeding!) So this is what I found in a nutshell:

Caregivers tend to mirror our Vet’s PTSD symptoms!

What does that mean?

Well, according to Family of a Vet, Secondary PTSD is first and foremost “hard to explain.” I completely agree with this observation! However, those of us who have been living with or are otherwise a Caregiver of a Vet with PTSD have most likely adopted certain strategies to try and help our Vet cope with the complete unpredictability of PTSD.

For example:

  • There are days when I feel like I am constantly walking on eggshells, trying to make sure there is absolutely nothing that will trigger a full-blown anxiety or panic attack.
  • When we go to the store (that’s if I am able to get him to go to the store with me), I tend to walk behind my husband off to his right.
  • I do pretty much all of the school outings and meetings for our son.
  • I try to keep the house at a comfortable temperature, since he gets anxious when it’s too hot!
  • I tend to drive, particularly if we are going anywhere further than a 15 mile radius from our house.
  • When I drive, I tend to look for debris and trash laying on the side of the road; just so I can move over or swerve out of the way.
  • I make sure I am always ready for him to take a break if we are in the car longer than 30 minutes.
  • Lately, I have even caught myself looking for every possible EXIT out of any store or building I walk into; especially when my husband is with me.

What I might have considered a strategy, can actually be considered Secondary PTSD? I was baffled, to say the least.

It is not a diagnosis that has been adapted by what is called the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders. However, studies are being conducted that examine the effect of PTSD on relationships, particularly romantic relationships and relationships with caregivers. The VA even mentions that PTSD can have some very negative or adverse effects on any relationship a Veteran has.

They do not call it Secondary PTSD though.

The VA refers to this as Caregiver Burden!

Regardless of what it may be called, to me it is something very real.

I understand that I need to evaluate everything I do and say in order for my husband to have a chance to find the coping skills he needs to make it through every day. I know I will continue to look for the EXIT when we go somewhere new. I will walk behind him at the store, or anywhere else; unless he specifically asks for me to lead the way. I will freeze my behind off, while he’s got the AC on full blast.

I will continue to do whatever I can to help my husband cope.

There are a few resources out there for Caregivers, but many of them seem to be located in bigger cities or have certain restrictions. Either way, it may not hurt to check them out and see if anything may be suitable for a particular need.

Please share this post with other caregivers!

Disclosure: Everything I share is solely based on my personal experience and is for informational purposes only. This page contains affiliate links. For more details please view my disclosure policy.


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