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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    How can I support my husband when he has a mental disorder?

    My husband and I were married nearly two years ago. 2 Months later, he was diagnosed with Post traumatic Stress disorder. I have given up my career in the city and moved to a small country town so he can be supported by his family. He sees a psychologist every fortnight and is making a significant effort in trying to get better. I try so hard not to be upset so he has no idea of how I am actually feeling. I know if I was completely honest, it would break his heart, as he already feels so bad about the stress he has put on me. I am constantly tired and emotional but I need to hide my emotions from him. I love him so much that I dont want him to feel bad, but he is just such a difficult person to live with. He's moody tempermental and irrational and he struggles with helping me out. I know this is part of his symptoms but it makes it hard to support him. My friends think I'm in an abusive relationship and sometimes its hard to differentiate between the disorder and his personality…
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  • I am a Melbourne Relationship Counsellor and Family Lawyer who is skilful in helping people get out of the pain of relationship distress and create … View Profile

    I am so sorry to hear of your difficulties. There are quite a few things that you may find will help. Firstly, you may be in an abusive relationship but this fact does not help you very much in and of itself. What are your goals? Do you wish to stay in the relationship? It sounds like you care for your husband very much. So, I am assuming at this stage that you need help and support for yourself. You need to become quite strong in that you do not take his behaviour personally and that you recognise that he has an illness from which most likely with good support over time, he may well recover. Actually, the greatest gift you can give yourselves is good couples counselling in order to strengthen your relatinship and develop compassion for each other. Hiding your feelings from him is not really an option as they will come out anyway in other forms. If you can form a strong partnership you will find that this helps him heal and helps you both. It will help you develop your ability to support each other on this journey you are on together. Good luck. Please contact me for couples counselling via skype if this is an idea that you can consider as I do know from all my experience that the situation you are in can most certainly be alleviated over time with the right support. All the best, Margie

  • Dr Toni Metelerkamp

    Clinical Psychologist, Psychologist

    Toni works with adults and couples, and specialises in diagnosing and treating anxiety (panic disorders and obsessive-compulsive disorder), phobias, substance and gambling, addictions, suicide and … View Profile

    I can appreciate you difficulty. First let me say that having a partner with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and being in an abusive relationship are quite different issues. They certainly can co-exist, but having PTSD is not directly linked to being an abusive partner.

    Posttraumatic stress disorder is difficult for both the person diagnosed and those living with them. The symptoms are pervasive and the person may or may not be able to communicate effectively about what is going on for them. As a psychologist who specialises in PTSD, I’m always very happy to see the partner at some point. I often suggest we have the partner join us, relatively early in the therapy, so that everyone is clear about PTSD and treatment. Being able to explain what PTSD is, how it comes to be, and what can be done about it is just as crucial for you to know as it is for him. It’s also important for you to be given information about typical symptoms and how best to manage them as a partner. That way, both you and your husband share a common understanding about the condition. 

    If you either don’t want to, or are not able to, chat with his psychologist I’d suggest you visit the Australian Centre for Posttraumatic Mental Health (ACPMH) website. They offer a CD that explains much of what I have suggested you might get from your husband’s psychologist.

    I wish you all the best at such a challenging time. 

  • Bruni (Brunhilde) Brewin

    Counsellor, Hypnotherapist

    Bruni Brewin is President Emeritus of The Australian Hypnotherapists’ Association (AHA), the oldest and largest National Registration Body for hypnotherapists in Australia founded in 1949, … View Profile

    Your life has certainly been turned upside down and I would suggest [if you haven't already done so], to build into your daily life some relaxation for you.  Time alone for meditation... massage... or a hobby.

    You say: My husband and I were married nearly two years ago. 2 Months later, he was diagnosed with Post traumatic Stress disorder.

    I don't know how long you knew your husband before you got married and if you already noticed something but thought it would change or I wonder if something happened after you married?  Did you notice he was moody, tempermental and irrational before or did that happen after?

    I would suggest you talk to his GP and Psychologist about this.

    Was your husband checked out recently for any underlying physical problems such as thyroid or sugar problems, or other health issues?   These can cause mood disorders, as can the medication he may have been given for his PTSD symptoms.  If it has been a while, maybe your GP might suggest that it is time to do that again.

  • I have been working in Eltham, Melbourne as a relationship and family counsellor for over twelve years. I draw on current theory and research about … View Profile

    As others have said, PTSD and being abusive are not the same thing! No-one deserves to be abused, and just because someone has a diagnosis of PTSD doesn't mean they will be abusive. Abuse is NOT OK and needs to be addressed. It sounds like it may be difficult to talk to your husband about the way he is treating you. Couples counselling may be a place to do this, but if you are worried about speaking plainly for fear of how your husband may react you may benefit more by seeing someone individually, to have a space just for you where you can get the support you need to work out what's best for you. Carers Australia have a national counselling program for family members of people with a diagnosed illness or dsability - up to 6 sessions are available to you free of charge with a counsellor close to where you live. 

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