Everyone who’s close to me also serves, also pays a price. My PTSD affects people I would never want to be adversely affected by my behavior.” 

Curtis Thompson (US Army, 1968-1969) explains how PTSD has affected his relationships with people he cares about. 

How do PTSD symptoms affect Veterans’ family and friends? 

Veterans with PTSD often feel like they’re on edge and find themselves getting angry over seemingly small problems. To family and friends, these symptoms can seem unpredictable. Partners and children of Veterans with PTSD can feel like they’re “walking on eggshells” because they never know what to expect.  

There were times where I was scared to say certain things to him, I was scared to ask him certain things [because] I had no idea which person I was getting today. So it was hard growing up not knowing exactly which parent I was going to get.” 

Olivia Jefferson (daughter of a Veteran) shares her story of growing up with a parent who struggled with PTSD.

PTSD symptoms can affect the people you love in other ways, too: 

Experiencing nightmares or unwanted memories 

Nightmares and flashbacks, or intense memories of the traumatic event, can affect the whole family. For example, a Veteran waking up in the middle of the night can wake up other family members, too. When these memories come back, it can be emotionally intense, and loved ones may not know the best way to show their support. 

Avoiding activities you used to enjoy 

Social activities like going out to dinner, shopping, and traveling can be challenging for people with PTSD. Many Veterans avoid activities they used to enjoy, and this can be frustrating or confusing for loved ones. 

Struggling to connect with others

People with PTSD may struggle to feel and express emotions — especially positive feelings like happiness. This can make it hard to relate to family and friends, and many Veterans with PTSD feel disconnected from the people they love. It’s hard for families too. 

This was the most difficult thing I’ve ever dealt with in my life. A person with PTSD, it’s uncharted, it’s different. You start out thinking maybe it’s just you, maybe it’s just the relationship. But then you realize there’s so much more.” 

Edward Noftell (former partner of a Veteran) reflects on the challenges of being in a relationship with someone with PTSD.

PTSD treatment can help you build stronger relationships with the people you care about most.

Karen Sullivan

Karen Sullivan


He’s back to his sweet, gentle self…and he understands when he’s having a bad day, why he’s having a bad day. Life in the family is very different after the treatment.