Couples Needed for PTSD Study

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“He doesn’t respond to my text messages during the day, and then all of a sudden he writes to tell me he’s not coming to the movie because he doesn’t want to leave the house today,” said the military spouse I was working with at Veterans Affairs (VA).

Like so many spouses whose partners have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), she was struggling to understand why her husband was so detached and uncommunicative. She was frustrated that they weren’t doing the same sorts of activities they used to enjoy.

As a clinical psychologist-in-training, I am passionate about working to improve the lives of military veterans and their families, particularly those who are struggling with PTSD following deployment. I originally planned to study psychology to help people cope with upsetting emotions or difficult changes in their lives, but when I started I did not yet know that I would discover a special place in my heart for military families.

I’m especially aware of the daily sacrifices military families make for our country, and am thankful for all they endure and all they do to protect our nation. Unfortunately, as you’re all too aware, those sacrifices can extend from the logistical (communication blackouts, frequent relocations) to the emotional and psychological (PTSD, depression).

That’s why I believe the psychology community has a responsibility to learn as much as we can about couples struggling with PTSD following deployment. We should then take that knowledge and put it into practice to help military families who have been hit hard by post-traumatic stress.

As the media devotes less and less attention to the challenges of military families, it seems to me that now is the perfect time for my field to pick up the slack and devote new energy and resources to understanding and aiding military families.

I designed my dissertation study to address this need and specifically gather information from military service members and their spouses. I want to know what goes on in the day-to-day lives of military couples in which the service member suffers from PTSD.

Once my study is complete, I plan to use the information it provides to inform prevention and intervention programs for military couples. I hope that the end result is that behavioral health providers can be as effective as possible when working with families affected by combat-related PTSD.

Here’s where you come in. If you or another military couple you know has been affected when the service member in the couple suffers from combat-related PTSD, I’d love it if you’d participate in my study.

As a way of saying thank you, couples who complete the study can receive up to $125 per couple. Interested couples can learn more about the study and see if you qualify at

Please note: due to study recruitment restrictions for this particular study, I am only able to invite heterosexual, single military, male service member/female partner couples at this time. I firmly believe that female service members, male spouses, and same-sex couples all have voices that very much deserve to be heard, and I look forward to including those of you that fit those criteria in future studies.

Whether you choose to participate in the study or not, I’d like to thank you for your service!


Sarah Campbell is doctoral student at George Mason University. Her research focuses on the influence of the interpersonal environment on PTSD, with a focus on combat veterans in particular, and couple processes more broadly.



U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Cody H. Ramirez.

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  • Joe

    It takes time and patience to work things out. Skills and instincs learned in combat for survival are not easily set aside once you are back in civilian life.

  • Shoe

    It’s really a shame that, after years of discrimination in the military and that dawn of a new era of acceptance, Spouse Buzz for would give bandwidth to a study that does not include female service members/veterans suffering from PTSD and their spouses, some of whom are in same sex marriages.

    • Coastiegirl

      Hey I agree as I am a former Coastie, however you have to give her some credit at least she is not ignoring the problem and is actively trying to research it. The findings will help all military members, regardless of gender.

      • Alan R. Vance

        Unfortunately, by ignoring same-sex couples where one suffers from PTSD, is doing almost as much harm as ignoring it happens to us. I suffer from PTSD and my husband has had to deal with it just as a heterosexual couple would, maybe more since we have the prejudice that still exist for same-sex marriages. He has put up with a lot while I suffered and we have been together for over 21 years; longer than most heterosexual couples last! We are accepted by the Federal Government and the VA, so why don’t the rest of you? Especially now that gays can be in the military legally and are suffering the same effects. There are going to be same-sex couples in need of this information just as much as the others.

    • jacey_eckhart

      Shoe, you’ve got to realize that female service members and same sex service members are gold for military researchers. Plenty of researchers would love to study those groups. No discrimination or disinterest there.

      The problem is that it is so difficult to get a representative sample. Females represent about 15% of the military population. Only half of them are married. About half of married females are married to other service members. In the Air Force, nearly two thirds of female airmen are married to male airmen. Without the explicit help of the Department of Defense, trying to get a good sample of couples that include a female service member and a male civilian is notoriously difficult.

      Same sex couples offer the same kind of obstacles. If you figure the gay population in the United States at, say, ten percent, that is another small population in the military. Since gay marriage has been legal for such a short time, there are fewer same sex military couples to study.

      We know that even though males and females in the military often do the same job and that women as well as men are susceptible to PTSD, many outcomes differ by gender. The divorce rate for military females is nearly twice as high as their matched male counterparts. There is no research so far that shows why that occurs.

      So when it comes to studying couples who are coping with PTSD, you can see how difficult it would be to get a good sample.