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Study tries to find how veterans’ PTSD impacts their dependents

Study tries to find how veterans’ PTSD impacts their dependents

10 March | 0 Comments | By Arizona Mental Health Helpline Team

There have been ample researches dealing with mental health problems of military veterans, more specifically post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). However, there is very little awareness on how veterans’ experiences of potentially traumatic events (PTEs) impact their dependents resulting in secondary traumatic stress (STS). A new study, published in the journal Springer in October 2016, has attempted to find out if such a correlation exists.

Julia Diehle, Samantha K. Brooks and Neil Greenberg, the authors of the study, relied on previously published research in medical databases. They extracted a total of 3,100 records and shortlisted 36 studies that reported PTSD or STS in partners, children and parents of veterans. The aim of the researchers was to find out if there was an association between STS in spouses/dependents and a veteran’s traumatic experiences.

Link between vets’ PTSD and dependents’ STS

While analyzing the results of the 36 shortlisted studies, researchers found no substantial evidence which proved that parents, dependents and partners were at a higher risk to develop STS due to veterans’ PTSD. It was observed:

  • Two studies, which focused on post-traumatic stress symptoms (PTSS) in veterans’ parents, did not find sufficient evidence to establish that STS in parents could be attributed to traumatic experiences of their (veteran) offspring.
  • Nine studies which analyzed the probability of PTSD in veterans’ children did not provide conclusive evidence of an association with parents’ PTSD. The studies did establish, though, that when PTSS was measured via a questionnaire, children of veterans showed a significantly higher incidence of PTSS compared to children of civilians; but even this was not considered clinically meaningful to establish a direct correlation.
  • Most of the 36 studies under review explored the incidence of traumatic stress in partners of veterans, but only a limited number of them centered on STS or assessed that PTSS was a direct cause of traumatic experiences of their veteran partners.

A collective limitation of the previous studies analyzed by the researchers is the fact that they have not considered partners’ first-hand traumatic experiences while investigating incidences of STS. There can be a case that a partner has developed PTSD due to a direct traumatic experience. Additionally, even if a partner does not suffer from clinical PTSD, a previous experience with a traumatic event could increase his or her vulnerability to develop secondary trauma.

Two studies which took into account primary trauma of partners found insignificant incidence of secondary trauma due to their veteran partners’ traumatic experiences. Interestingly, the studies concluded that majority of partners develop PTSD due to previous experience of a traumatic event. Here, the relevant fact is that a comparison of partners of veterans suffering from PTSD with partners of veterans not suffering from PTSD highlighted that the incidence of the disorder and/or higher scores on its measures is greater in case of the former.

PTSD probability higher in partners of help-seeking vets

Although no conclusion could be derived from the study, it highlighted some important points:

  • In six out of eight studies, more than 30 percent partners of help-seeking veterans indicated the likelihood of PTSD, while less than 30 percent of the partners reported the likelihood of PTSD in seven studies that included partners of veterans not seeking help.
  • There is a strong association between veterans’ and partners’ PTSD, particularly for veterans seeking help for PTSD. It is possible that veterans seeking help are less prone to hiding their symptoms and have a greater disposition to share their traumatic experience with therapists and partners. Veterans not seeking help may possibly avoid discussing their symptoms with their partners, consequently leading to lower STS in partners.

However, investigation of correlation between veterans’ and partners’ PTSD shows that there is only a small degree of association between the both.

Do not delay treatment for mental illness

Mental illnesses like PTSD can have a serious impact on the quality of life of individuals as well as their families. If you or someone you know is suffering from any kind of mental disorder, contact the Arizona Mental Health Helpline to know more about the mental health treatment centers in Arizona. Call us at our 24/7 helpline number 866-606-7791 or chat online with one of our experts to get details about some of the finest inpatient mental health treatment centers in Arizona.

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