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The Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Relationship: How to Support Your Partner and Keep Your Relationship Healthy Paperback – August 18, 2009
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As a text though, I found the treatment overly simplistic. The language, tone, and expected knowledge base of the reader was extremely remedial. Between taking psychology in college and reading other books on par with Dr Goleman's, I found myself skimming and skipping sections quite often. Considering that the author has done a lot of work with war veterans; oh yeah, the whole war thing comes up ad nauseam, I couldn't help but imagine Dr England has dealt with one particular type of audience all too often. This may sound bad, I know. But, the image I couldn't remove from my mind when reading this is the author counseling military spouse after military spouse, possibly from a rural section of the Southern US, who at the age of 18 or 19, after barely finishing high school, married a 19 year old boy who then gets shipped off to Iraq or Afghanistan. The DoD has no way to handle things like soldier's Acute Stress Reaction(ASR), it then cascades into PTSD, so these poor kids come back a wreck having seen horrible things done to their comrades in battle as well as horrible things fellow soldiers did to Iraqis or Afghans. Perhaps they were even ordered to commit atrocities first-hand. (I couldn't watch some of the stuff that went on in Cuba or Abu Ghraib without having a nervous break-down. If you don't think this is going on right now [because we're the good guys], you live in a dream world where PTSD doesn't exist anyway. So, go read Kubla Khan or something.) It's not my intention to disparage any portion of the population directly. Statistically speaking though, a significant portion of military personnel hail from the Southern States. Furthermore, it's in these rural areas that people marry at younger ages than in other regions. People who marry younger tend to be less educated than those who marry when they are older, both as a function of time and opportunity. It's these three areas intersecting that create a subset of the population who when presented with a loved one suffering from PTSD would be least equipped to handle it. Should this be the case, Dr England should be commended for focusing her help on those who need it the most.
Now, if you are wondering what kind of weirdo read this book and then composed the above paragraph, you'd understand better once you read the book. Fact is, lots of Americans suffer PTSD without ever having been in the military much less war. This book, however, mentions war, veterans, or some other similar reference almost every page. It's as if it were written targeted to the audience mentioned above, and then the publisher turned around and widened the audience for profitability's sake.
Those are my biggest issues with this one. I could go on about all kinds of other mechanical or style points, like how the author kind of mixes the audience and pronouns. Admittedly, between trying to address both sexes fairly, current Political Correctness that goes too far, and English grammatical limitations, pronouns can be a huge problem. However, when the PTSD sufferer being described is female and then we want to address the husband's situation, going right into a generic 'she' isn't just confusing it comes across as sloppy. I tend to fault the editorial staff on this sort of thing. Never be afraid to use the pronoun 'she' generically, it doesn't automatically make you a male chauvinist. They would still let you vote for a woman, should one run for President. I also have to disagree slightly with her value judgment of benzodiazepines, but that's a lot more complex than relevant here. In the end, the minor points don't detract from the value of the book.
All in all, it's not a terrible piece of writing. There are some good facts, and I did learn a couple things. It gives a solid walk-through, with explanations, of many of the common treatment approaches including: Cognitive Restructuring and Exposure Therapy as well as therapeutic exercises like deep-breathing and writing. The author even covers the importance of diet and exercise, both of which are all too often overlooked and considered immutable by American health providers in our junk-food loving, tv-watching, iPhone-addicted modern lifestyle. The victim-rescuer-persecutor triangle was also good to mention, because it's so insidious and pervasive at the same time. So, if you know nothing of psychology, therapy, or PTSD, then this is a wonderful place to start. If you have plenty of background knowledge, you probably want to look elsewhere.
Finally, before closing, I would like to note that my interest in this book didn't arise out of a personal relationship. I'm doing research for my own piece of writing. Thus, while I've been close to a person suffering from PTSD at one point in my life, it's not why I read the book. You may find that because I'm looking for different information, I may be way off the mark. I've been wrong before, and I often am.
I agree with the above commenter who stated that the treatment of the problem was extremely superficial. (I also agree that the book gives the appearance of having initially been written exclusively for veterans, but that strikes me as minor compared to the superficiality problem.)
Based on the title, I expected the book (which is a decent length) to go into detail examining THE RELATIONSHIP as affected by one partner's PTSD, and also the effects on the non-diagnosed partner (since the literature on the effects of PTSD on the person who has it is already extensive). I was disappointed. One chapter, "What are you going through?" (sixteen pages) should probably be about half of the book. One would hope this chapter would address what sorts of symptoms are normal for the partners of PTSD sufferers, what sorts of disorders the partner may develop, whether these are likely to be remedied by the PTSD-suffering partner's treatment or may need independent treatment, and what the interaction might be between the non-PTSD partner's difficulties (or resulting psychological disorders) and the PTSD (I expected the book to contain at least a chapter on the likelihood of a partner developing clinical-level depression as a result of living with a PTSD sufferer and the need for treatment). This is not the case. Instead, the chapter provides a cursory summary of the stages of grieving about as sophisticated as a ninth-grader's science paper. Apparently, the stages of grieving cover the sum total of what a PTSD sufferer's partner might experience. (One suspects the author has never interacted with the partner of a PTSD sufferer and is simply guessing - and not a very good guesser.)
The other major flaw, in my opinion, is the writer's apparently total lack of empathy. You know how sometimes you read a book and you feel that the author is speaking to you personally - has a deep insight into your innermost thoughts and feelings, articulates things you yourself couldn't articulate well, makes sense of the chaos in your head, and shows you a clear way forward? None of that is present here. Among the highlights are (p. 139): "If something goes wrong or you don't feel that something is fair, you need to figure out a way to think about it in a more positive light, work through it, and grow because of it"; and (pp. 15-16) "An afflicted man may avoid sex with his partner. However, he may go off and try to become sexually involved with other women, which can, of course, be very emotionally painful for the ignored woman. If you've encountered this difficult reality [!], remind yourself that it's the PTSD talking - it's not really about you." (I cannot believe that this last was written by a social worker, or, indeed, anyone who has ever had a human relationship.)
I don't mean to be unkind, because I can see that Dr. England has worked hard on this book (it's carefully organized and edited, for example). However, I cannot imagine a treatment of this topic that would be more superficial and less helpful to those who really need it, and I think that she is unfairly offering hope to those who are suffering. They need to look elsewhere.