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2012 HSR&D/QUERI National Conference Abstract

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2012 National Meeting

1037 — Effects of PTSD Symptoms and Treatment on Partners of Veterans with PTSD

Mansfield AJBozik Lyman SC, and Alie GA, VA National Center for PTSD, Pacific Islands Healthcare System;

This study aimed to 1) Assess understanding of PTSD symptoms, treatment, and outcomes among spouses/partners of Veterans diagnosed with PTSD; 2) Assess spousal/partner involvement in the PTSD treatment process, and barriers to involvement among individuals not currently taking part in treatment; and 3) Determine the emotional, psychological, physical, and social effects of PTSD treatment among spouses/partners of Veterans diagnosed with PTSD.

Spouses/partners of 1,958 Veterans with an active PTSD diagnosis and seen within the VA Pacific Islands Healthcare System within the past year were invited to complete a brief survey. Items assessed demographics, understanding of PTSD symptomatology, involvement in and knowledge about PTSD treatment, and aspects of their lives that may have been impacted by their partner’s PTSD.

Spouse/partner (n = 750) responses indicated most (81.9%) recognized clinical symptoms of PTSD, but with the exception of group therapy (79.3%) and prescription drugs (53.3%), had a poor understanding of treatment options. Over 70% expressed a desire for spouse/partner support groups, PTSD education, and greater involvement in their Veteran’s care, but only 43.3% had accompanied the Veteran to treatment. Emotional health (57.5%), intimacy with partner (54.1%), and sleep (53.7%) were cited as most negatively impacted by their Veteran’s PTSD. Qualitative responses highlighted the difficulties faced by the families of Veterans with PTSD, the desire for targeted outreach to this unique population, and the potential for such efforts to improve Veterans’ PTSD outcomes and quality of life for Veterans and their families.

Though largely affected themselves across emotional, physical, and social dimensions, spouses/partners of Veterans with PTSD have only a partial understanding of symptoms, treatment, and outcomes for PTSD, yet seek resources and opportunities to increase their understanding and involvement in their loved ones’ care.

Results from this study allow the VA mental health community to identify gaps and opportunities for both developing and augmenting spousal/partner education and involvement in Veterans’ care. In doing so, VA can likely reduce stress for the Veteran, improve symptom management and treatment adherence, and ultimately improve long-term outcomes and quality of life among Veterans and their spouses/partners.

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