June 30, 2022

Three Things to Know about being with an Officer with PTSD: A Series for Spouses

Note: This list was compiled by spouses of officers for spouses of officers. The London Spousal Support Group is a group of individuals who meet twice per month to offer support to spouses and partners of officers with PTSD. This series of tips for spouses of officers with PTSD was developed as a collaboration between members of this group. We hope that these life experiences will help you think about ways you can find balance as the spouse of an officer.

Dealing with a Loved One with PTSD

While people will experience a range of emotions after trauma, a PTSD diagnosis is characterized by a series of symptoms following exposure to a traumatic event. This can range from intrusive memories or dreams of the event to intense distress when exposed to reminders of the event. Other symptoms also include avoidance of internal (memories) and external (places or activities) reminders of the event.  

Dealing with a loved one with PTSD, it wouldn’t be unlikely if they share about experiencing feelings of guilt, fear, or anger. They may also complain about problems with concentration and sleep, as well as general problems about interpersonal relationships.  

And while anyone exposed to a significant amount of stress and pressure can develop PTSD, it has been found that rates of PTSD are higher amongst uniformed first responders and military members. PTSD can be a daunting diagnosis to navigate, and this goes for the first responder and their spouse and family. The nature of post traumatic responses is bound to impact home life significantly.

If you or your spouse are in distress or need emotional support immediately, please call 1-833-677-BOOT (Boots on the Ground Support Line for first responders).

pstd therapy

  • Prioritize learning about yourself. Being the one who holds the family together can be hard work. If you’re the spouse of a PTSD sufferer, you’re likely in the process of educating yourself with things like triggers that your partner may have. It’s good to note that educating yourself on what you need is equally important, as this can empower you to be more aware of what type of support you and your loved one need when things are difficult, and to communicate more effectively when you need help.

  • Define your boundaries. Boundaries are defined as personal limits that every person has that helps them define their own needs apart from the needs of our loved ones. Determining boundaries within a long-term relationship can be hard sometimes, especially when you spend so much time with one other person and it leaves the lines blurry on how one person’s needs may be different from another’s. It’s important to remember that our partners can’t read our minds and automatically what our boundaries are, so we have to communicate with them. Boundaries can also mean recognizing things that aren’t within your control, like your spouse’s recovery, and instead, focusing on things that you can control, like your own actions.  

  • Try to have fun! Doing activities you used to do together could be a fun idea as much as trying new things together. You have to actively find ways to make each other laugh and keep your moments light and fun. This is especially effective if you’re working to improve communication, strengthen your bond, and resolve conflicts.

What to Do If You Suffer from PTSD?

If you suffer from PTSD and it’s been taking a toll on you and your spouse’s relationship, then it’s crucial to seek professional help as soon as possible. PTSD is a complex psychiatric disorder that requires specialized treatment and support. One of the first steps you must take is consulting a mental health professional who can provide you with an accurate diagnosis and create a personalized treatment plan tailored to your needs.  

Evidence-based treatments such as cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) or eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) have shown positive results in managing PTSD symptoms. Additionally, implementing healthy coping strategies like exercise, mindfulness, and relaxation techniques can complement therapy and improve your overall well-being.  

Outside of clinical help, it’s good to establish a reliable support network—whether it’s your family, friends, or support groups—with people who understand your experience, as this plays a pivotal role in your recovery process. You must remember that recovering from PTSD takes time; therefore, it's important to be patient with yourself throughout this journey while consistently cooperating with your trusted mental health professionals.

Can Archways Centre for CBT Help with PTSD Treatment?

Archways can definitely help, especially since CBT has been found to be clinically effective in helping clients who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). CBT aims to change negative thoughts and behaviours by focusing on the connections between one's thoughts, feelings, and actions.  

In the context of PTSD, CBT helps individuals identify and challenge distorted beliefs related to their traumatic experience.  

Through various techniques such as exposure therapy and cognitive restructuring, CBT assists individuals in managing symptoms associated with PTSD, including intrusive memories, hypervigilance, avoidance behaviour, and emotional numbing. Archways Centre for CBT is always here to help, especially those whose spouses suffer from PTSD. Our highly skilled and experienced team of experts can help you get the PTSD treatment you need and live a fuller life, one step at a time. You may reach us at (519) 472-6612.

Written and edited by Jerrica Hunter, Registered Psychotherapist at Archways Centre for CBT and the PTSD London Spouse Group. Originally written for and published in the “Observer” (London Police Association) and reproduced here with permission.

About the Author

Jerrica Hunter