Date of Submission

Spring 2012

Academic Program


Project Advisor 1

Richard Gordon

Project Advisor 2

Frank Scalzo

Abstract/Artist's Statement

When veterans return home from war with PTSD, the disorder can have detrimental effects on their close family relationships. Researchers have proposed different mechanisms underlying the distress experienced by partners and children of veterans with PTSD in the hopes that these mechanisms can be targeted in treatment. The purpose of this project is to review and synthesize the current literature on these mechanisms of distress, as well as the treatments that have been designed to address them. This review examines several key factors that account for veterans’ relationship distress, including the important factors of intimacy and aggression. Due to the emotional numbing symptoms of PTSD, veterans have a difficult time experiencing emotions and communicating them to their partners, which can hinder the development of intimacy in the relationship. Through an increased propensity to perceive threat and a loss of self-monitoring, the hyperarousal symptoms of PTSD can lead to intimate partner aggression. A number of couple-based treatments have been developed for veterans with PTSD and their partners, referred to as Behavioral Conjoint Therapies. These interventions are currently only in their pilot stages, but address some of the key mechanisms of distress for veterans and their partners, including intimacy and communication.

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