Many couples are aware of Couvade syndrome, or “sympathetic pregnancies,” where husbands experience some of the same symptoms as their pregnant spouses. But did you know that a similar psychological episodes exist with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD?

It is usually assumed that people with PTSD either directly experienced or witnessed a traumatic incident, whether it be an accident, natural disaster, or illness. PTSD is largely associated with members of the military due to war’s volatile and dangerous atmosphere. In fact, the U.S. Department of Veterans’ Affairs finds that one in five combat veterans will develop PTSD either during or post-service. However, other people, such as family members and spouses of those who have endured trauma, are equally likely to develop symptoms of PTSD. Depending on the individual, such as adults and children, symptoms of PTSD can manifest in vastly different ways, which can sometimes be misinterpreted by both physicians and psychologists as other conditions or disorders. However, mis/undiagnosed PTSD can easily lead to more serious consequences, such as alienation, depression, and in extreme cases, suicide.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, the main symptoms of PTSD in adults include flashbacks or nightmares of the traumatic incident, symptoms of avoidance such as memory loss or emotional numbness, and insomnia and paranoia. For children, these symptoms are vastly different and can even appear like normal childhood habits, which for kids who have undergone some form of trauma is an unfortunate consequence of the condition. Some children experience bedwetting, which for some children can cause alarm, especially if he or she has been potty-trained before. Other symptoms listed by the NIMH include playfully reenacting the traumatic event (one of the most obvious signs that something is wrong), a child either pretending or actually becoming mute, and extra clinginess to adults, especially parents. Clinging to parents who have been the ones to endure the trauma is an especially prevalent warning sign that a child has become deeply concerned for the adult’s well-being. This behavior of course is no doubt the result of PTSD.

Spouses can easily be just as affected when someone they love has just undergone a traumatic incident. Over-protection, anxiety, and “hovering” might be only a few of the many ways adults like to ensure that their loved one is once again safe from harm. The overly-concerned family member needs extra reassurance, such as visual contact, that everything is really okay and that danger is no longer present.

So what kind of treatment is available for all individuals suffering from PTSD? Depending on the situation, such as the type of traumatic incident itself, can prejudge proper treatment options. For regular civilians, they can seek either professional psychological or psychiatric help. There are many medications prescribed specifically to those who suffer from PTSD to calm the central nervous system that is responsible for many symptoms experienced during an episode. These episodes are likely to include narcotics which provide a calming effect so that an individual can return to their daily lives without the distraction of constant anxiety and depression.

Veterans suffering from PTSD are encouraged to also follow a more private route other than through VA hospitals. Several studies released in 2012 revealed that VA facilities have thrown therapy by the wayside and have instead increased narcotic prescriptions by 259% since 2002. As a result, many veterans are dying from overmedication simply because the VA admits that it is simply easier and faster to treat ailing veterans through medication rather than individualized therapy that can greatly benefit their psychological and familial states. Because of these recent studies performed on the VA’s operations, other organizations have stepped forward in order to holistically treat veterans with more than just medication.

One of those organizations is Operation: I.V, a 501(c)3 non-profit founded in 2012 that helps combat veterans heal from both PTSD as well as traumatic brain injuries. Its founder, Roxann Abrams, is a Gold Star Mother who lost her son SFC Randy Abrams in 2009. Randy took his own life after experiencing a PTSD flashback from his service in Iraq. Randy had undiagnosed PTSD- a common occurrence among combat veterans either due to mistakes made by the medical field or simply the individual’s failure to report such grave symptoms.

As a result of her son’s death, Abrams founded Operation: I.V. so that combat veterans who served in either Iraq or Afghanistan have a place to receive treatment through a specialized “VIP”, or “Veteran Intervention Plan” program. “VIP” offers ten different rehabilitation programs, including hyperbolic oxygen therapy, service dogs, and anxiety reduction therapy. Additionally, veterans may also partake in programs such as job retraining, business mentoring, and educational assistance. Again, while there is no cure for PTSD, the programs provided by Operation: I.V. can drastically improve a veteran’s mental health and overall outlook on life!

Author's Bio: 

Abigail Fazelat is a contributing writer for Operation: I.V., a non-profit organization founded by Gold Star Mother Roxann Abrams who lost her son SFC Randy Abrams to PTSD. Randy took his own life after experiencing a wartime flashback- an experience not uncommon to any combat veteran. As a result, Abrams founded Operation: I.V. as an “intravenous of help” for other Iraq and Afghanistan combat veterans suffering from PTSD, traumatic brain injuries, and contemplating suicide. Fazelat has worked for the organization since October 2013 under a pseudonym.