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Question
Posted by: Maxi | 2004/02/19

How can I persuade my husband he needs help?

My husband has been hi-jacked (assaulted, stabbed and gun held to head) twice in 18 months! It has been very traumatic for him, but the second time he did not want to accept any counseling because previously, he had to go through de-briefing, which he found very disturbing. He now thinks this is the only option when seeing a pyschologist! The last incident was in November and he has recently become very depressed, mood swings, loss of temper control, irritability etc. to the extent that it has been causing unpleasantness within the family (children and myself). He is now talking about "going away" on his own for a month or two to "get himself, and his thoughts together - he feels the pressure of family life is sometimes too much (he says he does not want to end our marriage). He says he loves me and the children and seems very confused. He is not keen on seeing a pyschologist or taking an anti-depressant to help. I have consulted a pyschologist to help me in how I should handle the situation ad also to assist me in overcoming the panic attacks and anxiety I am experiencing. She has told me that the anger and irritability is not personally aimed at us and he is suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome. I really don't think that he can "get himself together" without help and if he moves out of the house, I am afraid what damage it will do to my children's relationship with him (son aged 10 and daughter aged 6), and mine! I love him deeply and am trying to give him space when I see he is not in a good mood (instead of asking him what's wrong all of the time or getting upset myself). How can I persuade him to accept medication and to talk to someone about how he feels (he says sometimes he feels his head is going to explode!). I have been taking an antidepressant for a week now and am slowly beginning t feel the benefit. My pyschologist gave me some reading matter on depression symptons, assistance in overcoming it etc. so I could give it to him to read. Please help - I can't stand to think my family stands to be turned upside down!

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Our expert says:
Expert ImageCyberShrink

Dear maxi,
Debriefing is quackery, and I strongly advise anyone exposed to trauma to refuse to accept it. It is a quack method which was heavily marketed by some minor shrinks, greatly to their own profit, and accompanied by major claims none of which have held up in research, which has found at best NO benefits at all, and at worst, there is good evidence that many people are worse off after Debriefing than folks exposed to similar eents, wi were not debriefed.
So, in rejecting Debriefing, your husband is absolutely correct. HOWEVER --- he is not right in assuming that all shrinks would insist on carrying out this useless method. The psychologist you spoke to sounds right --- what you are describing sounds very like PTSD, the Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, which left on its own usually becomes a chronic and serious disorder, but which can inded be greatly helped by proper treatment. This would include the use of an antidepressant, not necessarily for its antidepressant effects, but to correct similar chemical imbalances that are part of PTSD ; and counselling / psychotherapy.
Try to explain to your husband that it is unfortunate that his first experience was unhelpful --- possibly the person he saw was sincerely trying to help, using a method which has been widely and irresponsibly touted with claims that it would be ideal for someone in the state he was in --and who may not have been familiar with the evidence that it was very unlikely to help. But right now he needs and deserves proper expert assessment and treatment, to end this unpleasant state he is getting into, and to help him to return to his normal frame of mind, for his sake, as well as for you and the children. It is not, as some men worry, a sign of weakness to respond in this way to such an ugly experience --- it's a sign of a strong and normal person responding to highly abnormal events.

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