New Challenges, New Normal

Upon returning home from deployment to a combat zone or disaster relief situation, it's typical for service members to feel out of sorts. Normal reactions during the first six to eight weeks include:

  • irregular sleeping patterns
  • anger
  • appetite/weight change
  • little resistance to illness
  • frustration
  • fatigue
  • restlessness
  • hyper-vigilance
  • feeling overwhelmed
  • insecurity
  • doubting faith
  • anxiety
  • crying spells
  • memory lapses
  • problems concentrating
  • inability to trust
  • difficulty talking about experiences
  • flashbacks

Spouses can help their service members by ensuring they:

  • receive ample food, rest and exercise.
  • find time for hobbies.
  • avoid the use of illegal substances or excessive alcohol.
  • spend time with friends and family.
  • receive help if necessary.

If symptoms persist beyond eight-weeks and significantly disrupt a soldier's routine or quality of life, there may be a more serious issue at hand; counseling, medical attention or psychiatric help may become necessary.

If your service member exhibits one of the following behaviors, seek help immediately:

  • Suicidal or homicidal thoughts
  • Violent behavior
  • Verbal abuse
  • Reckless behavior
  • Excessive anger
  • Alcohol or substance abuse

Possible causes of any of the aforementioned behaviors include Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) or Mild Traumatic Brain Injury (MTBI), survivor's guilt, depression and compassion fatigue.

Wives, too, are susceptible to many of the same conditions that plague returning veterans. Though they didn't experience combat, many indirectly experience the same traumatic events (learning of the loss of a comrade, hearing of the horrors of war). Some develop PTSD, survivor's guilt, depression and compassion fatigue second-hand during the intense task of caring for their husbands.


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Next in this Series: Thirty-Three Months at War