It’s very frustrating for us living with PTSD. PTSD involves rocketing into extreme states of stress re-activity ( in the form of terror, rage, and uncontrollable impulses) and plunging into equally extreme states of being shut-down (exhaustion, emotional numbing, despair, and dissociation).

From this vantage point, PTSD clearly is about much more than fear and anxiety, involving the full range of emotions and undermining our body’s health, our ability to think clearly, to set and achieve goals, and to fully participate in and benefit from relationships.

All we know is we are safe, we are alive. It becomes all about the loss of self-regulation that occurs when survival dominates how we think, feel, and behave in every area of our life.

PTSD replaces the “me” who was still growing, learning, and becoming a unique person before the trauma(s), leaving only a desperate survivor who may have no clear sense of identity and who may even hate or loathe herself or himself.

But because our thinking kept us safe kept us alive, we honestly do not think we have a problem. To us we aren’t acting nuts, we are acting exactly how we trained. We are military, it’s who we are. Our training, the military way kept us alive. We have to be able to respond to threat with minimal time pondering choices and we don’t use kid gloves.  No we go on full attack. So how can our thinking and actions be wrong now?

In our mind we don’t have the problem, the problem is the spouse who cries, who pushes, who nags, who says we need help (which in military world that translates to we are weak). We really think you as the spouse are our problem and the cause for pushing us till our anger explodes. But hey we are military, that is a perfectly acceptable emotion and reaction to have.

I’ve made a list of things I’ve learned over the years or realized from my experience. Many veterans I speak to have expressed to me this list is pretty well right on although it may not be everyone’s experience.

1. We use video games to escape and feel in control of something, that is normal. Don’t fight us on this it will only make things worse. We don’t need a mom telling what to do or trying to punish us by taking it away. Instead try playing a game with us. The point is find something, anything, to get involved with us, and get some communication going. Spending time together even over a video game helps rebuild trust.

2. Lack of intimacy normal due to being numb. Do you have any idea what it’s like to look at your family and not be able to feel anything? It is not about you, it is about us and trying to figure out what the hell is going on. It also could probably be contributed to the next point.

3. Anger, yelling, cussing, and reacting before thinking (i.e overreacting or doing stupid things on impulse) The trauma we endure caused physical changes in our brain. The amygdala which controls flight or fight is now always on. We can go from 0-60 in a nanosecond. It is what kept us alive. Every situation is an emergency. We just came back from a place that everyone wanted to kill us and our brothers and sisters are dying right in front of us. Our amygdala can’t tell the difference between Iraq and home. We will not fight with kid gloves on. We are now playing by a different set of rules. (We have to relearn to control it which takes time.)

4. Spending money. Again most of us have this problem. Due to lack of impulse control because of changes in our brain, and well, what’s the point of saving for a future that may never come. Death is in us, we saw our buddies laughing and joking one minute and dead the next.

5. As far as us getting a job. I don’t know many of us with PTSD that can hold down jobs. It freaks us out to be in public. Civilian world is not even in the same universe as military world. An example, I got fired from a job with in the first week. We were moving office furniture and the guys who I was working with were just throwing this furniture on top of each other without putting the protective covering in between the furniture to protect it from damage.  So I called them out on it and went to the supervisor to let him know that policy and procedure were not being followed and the potential problems that could cause. In my mind first of all not following rules and regs is completely unacceptable. In the military it’s your ass if something goes wrong and you didn’t follow procedure. That is how people die! But I found out they were not as worried about policy and procedure being followed as they were about the work getting done as fast as possible when they fired me citing I was difficult to work with. And this wasn’t the only job this happened at. Each of them saying, I was difficult to work with.

6. Startle response and having to be in a position to see everything. Most of us with PTSD have a quick reaction to sudden movement and noises and almost always stay on guard and where we can see an entire room. The way I explained it to my wife why she couldn’t sneak up behind me or touch me unexpectedly was like this, hopefully you will be able to understand this way too. I was a MP so I was always armed! On the ship or anywhere we always had to be where we could see everything like in a corner or some place we weren’t exposed. If someone was able to get behind us and we didn’t know about it they could disarm us. So to stay in control we always had to be on guard and make sure no one got close enough to take our weapon. With that if someone (buddy) would come up next us, tap us on the shoulder or on the back and we weren’t expecting it we immediately would go into protect mode and reach for our gun. It was something trained into us and it kept us safe. It is not something you can just turn off.

Just a little insight to our thinking. It has taken me 10 years to start to see a little bit of the work I have put in to retrain my thinking. -Justin Gourley

To read what it feels like to live with PTSD click here.  If you would like to know more about PTSD and the Brain click here.





  1. My son-in-law has P T S D and I have see alot of this behavior over the last 10 years and 9 months, He has made tremendous stride in that time I have know him. He has a beautiful wife and 4 children and is the most wonderful son-in-law a mom could ever have. I pray for you and your recovery. When Joey turned his life over to the Lord all things changed for him.

  2. I love this article. I have a deeper understanding of my husband’s combat PTSD than most wives just because of my own life experiences but it took us a few years to get there. I feel this article puts it plain and simple what most combat PTSD people cannot put into words. The biggest thing that is important for loved ones to understand is that it’s not a choice and it’s in no way enjoyable to have to live the way those who suffer do. Thank you!!!!!

    • How do you deal with some with PTSD. I have seen signs of 1-5 in my husband (not so much of 2 yet which is good because that would also be tough for me to live with). My husband can go from 0-60 in a nanosecond. When he gets into a rage, he can destroy plenty of things around the house and cause a lot of damage. It’s very frustrating and it’s hard for me not to blame him for not controlling his anger. I also don’t find that it’s enough or fair to explain to my kids that dad has PTSD.

  3. Words well spoken!! Thank you for putting this into words so that others can understand our perspective.

  4. We are not safe

  5. This article is dead on, brother! I’ve been dealing with these problems for over 10 yrs now, and it doesn’t get any easier. Tnx for shedding light on the issue!

  6. Thank U! I guess Im not crazy!

  7. thank you for sharing this. It makes perfect sense.

  8. Yep that is PTSD! Myself and my girlfriend deal with it daily, but she is not only dealing with my PTSD I am also dealing with hers, you see we are both ex-military, I deal with the bangs and explosions, and she deals with the medical trauma’s, we understand each other and that is how we get though each day

  9. Thank you Robert, it is very important for all of ask to be as educated as possible about ptsd When we are with those who deal with it every moment of their life

  10. Well if you have PTSD, it’s important you don’t push it off and that you get help in any way possible. If you have it and don’t do anything about it, you can permanently mess up the relationships in your life. There won’t be much you can do besides learn for the next time. You could permanently lose people who really love you, took the time to understand you, and were patient with the PTSD. You should also be careful not to do drugs or anything else in addition that can permanently affect your brain & hormones.

  11. Now I know why I can’t keep a relationship an why I feel everybody is out to get me no trust an life is lonely when you don’t have trust for friends an family

  12. I have lived with PTSD for 46 years. I recently had an operation for a broken leg and it put me right back to where I was. this piece and all the commentd have givien me a good perspective on where I am right now. I’ll do it again.I’ll best the beast.

  13. My husband has PTSD from Iraq. The best way I have found to cope with it is together. When he wakes from a nightmare I wake with him. When we go to a restaurant I make sure we get a seat that will make him as comfortable as possible. We are a team. I’m also a veteran so I tend to understand his reactions and behavior a little better than some might. I still live by the warrior ethos and I couldn’t imagine giving up on him no matter how bad his PTSD got

  14. PTSD sucks…. My wife calls it a mental disorder….. It really doesn’t help when your wife calls it a mental illness…… Really getting sick and tired of hearing it.

    • Mr B Tell her how it makes you feel . and take her to a group meeting dealing with PTSD , Hope she understands. Best of Luck and remember your not alone

    • I’m a spouse of a PTSD person. It can get tough for us. We endure a lot from you all and it is always our fault. I have said ugly things to my husband as well and I’m trying hard to get better and the name calling. We are human too and not your mental punching bag. I read a lot and try to implement things into our marriage but it can’t be a one way street.

  15. PTSD is what I live with , It is very hard to not let it run my life and more often it does the not. But I will be better, I have found my self alone for many years and I have found the long lost love , who is battling a severe level of PTSD . Its hard as a loved one watching one suffer and not be able to help, but I know for a fact I cant I can just be there and give him space and listen and NOT judge. Not being able to wrap your arms around them to protect is difficult also but you have to know that it will happen. Not everyone is the same not all levels are either. Sometimes you just need to Breathe and when that becomes hard you push thru and take your time out and hand over heart and you feel it and you make it slow down.
    Dont give up on your loved one because they may not make sense to you.. educate yourself on what its like, and how it may feel.

  16. I hate PTSd. It is destroying my marriage. He allows his condition to control him. I also find that It is controlling me as well. He doesn’t want me to have any type of time alone. If I am with him all he does is cut me down. This is really getting the best of me. Please help. I bet if you suggest group with other people he wouldn’t want me to attend because its doing something for my self. This is driving me nuts…………HELP

  17. I just read the article and found it interesting. I am engaged to a man in the Army, a Sgt….he is heading over seas for his 3rd tour and he is at a base in Texas training…..but now he is on a short break for the holiday. He was drinking and he became irritable with me and saying mean things. I stopped texting him to let him cool off and didn’t want to say anything to push his anger further. Was I wrong? He seemed to get meaner the more I text, but he tells me he loves me and wants to marry me. I feel lost and don’t know what to do. I feel helpless….any advice? He has ptsd and was drinking beer, I think he was buzzed or drunk…not sure. But I still and will always love him regardless.

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