You have probably heard of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) – but are you aware that it can be contagious? Studies have shown that people close to those suffering PTSD, like military spouses, may experience a condition known as Secondary Traumatic Stress Disorder (STSD) from repeatedly hearing about catastrophic events from a loved one.
A study from 2011 found that combat-related PTSD is linked with higher psychological stress levels in the spouse of the PTSD sufferer. However, digging deeper into the research shows that those military spouses who were identified as having traumatic stress may have had a stronger or more generalized predisposition to mental stress anyway, and in most cases it is likely unrelated to their loved one’s PTSD. Still, a subset of the cases of psychological stress were likely attributed to the partner’s PTSD.
For a personal story about STSD, which inspired this blog post, I recommend this recent article from the Atlantic.