FamilyOfaVet - Real world info about PTSD, TBI, & life after combat
FamilyOfaVet - Real World info about PTSD, TBI, & life after combat.

Helping Your PTSD Spouse:
How to Handle PTSD Triggers in Social Settings

One important way that you can support your PTSD spouse is to understand and be alert
to his triggers.  This awareness can be especially valuable when you’re in social situations
or out in public.  Knowing that you “have your spouses back” can make the difference
between your Vet choosing to stay home, or feeling safe to go out.

A trigger is anything that brings about the
symptoms of PTSD.  Triggers may include
people, places, smells, words, situations and/or sounds.  There are some very common
triggers with Vets, such as the sound of a helicopter, loud noises such as gun shots,
fireworks, a car backfiring, or a door slamming.  Smells such as diesel, smoke, blood, and
explosives are also typical triggers for Veterans and so are situations such as crowed
places filled with strangers, rooms with no windows, or being unable to see the outside.

Many triggers are specific to your Vet and his particular experiences and memories.  Talk
to your Vet about his personal triggers. Let him know that you want to be able to better
understand the things that can bring on his symptoms so you can help and support him

Something as simple as knowing that your spouse needs to sit facing the door in a
restaurant can make the difference between a calm, and enjoyable meal and an anxious,
stressful one.  Your Veteran will be appreciative of your understanding when you always
choose a table that allows him to face the door.   

Dining with a group can be problematic when it comes to seating.  However, you can take
the lead to do whatever quiet maneuvering is necessary for your spouse to sit where he
feels safe.  When this is accomplished without bringing attention to him, you will be his
hero.   It is also important that you pay attention to any changes in your surroundings.
Noise levels increasing, a room becoming more crowded or chaotic, can quickly set off the
trigger for your Vet.

Learn to recognize small changes in your Vets demeanor such as facial expressions,
nervous gestures, and signs of agitation. Keep a watchful, loving eye on your Vet, and help
your spouse to easily escape if the situation is becoming difficult for them. Simply
suggesting that they step outside for some fresh air may be all that it takes.  Asking him if
he’s ready to go, and removing him from the triggers can help to prevent an uncomfortable
situation for everyone.

Learning to provide a safe and loving exit from social situations for your
PTSD spouse is a
valuable tool to support your Vet.  When they feel safe that they can leave a social setting
when the need arises without you becoming angry or making them feel guilty, this
knowledge can go a long way toward opening your spouse up to accepting future social

This article was written by Debbie Sprague.  Debbie is the loving wife of a Vietnam Veteran
with PTSD who has years of experience successfully helping her husband navigate life with
post traumatic stress disorder.  Debbie is also a member of our Grassroots Team - a group
of volunteers dedicated to helping us expand to help more veterans and
their loved ones. If you would like to volunteer from home, as little as an hour or two per
month, please
CLICK HERE for more information! We could really use your help :)

CLICK HERE to return to the Real-Life Coping Skills for PTSD page

CLICK HERE to return to the Coping with a Spouse Who has PTSD page
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