October 22, 2009

The Combat Veteran, Detachment and Dissociation

Absence of Prescence and Intimacy

You may or may not know that I am serving an internship in a legal setting. I have been struggling with the opening up and closing down myself along with keeping this separate from my interviews with clients, psychosocial reports and recommendations. Many of the clients I serve have similar backgrounds as myself, that being of course traumatization and retraumatization. The chronically traumatized person can become caught in a whirlwind of triggers, negative emotions and behavior while remaining detached from the environment and the reality of the situation.

When a survivor exhibits detachment from external stimulus and interactions, they have checked out and can remain in this state of mind for long lengths of time. Stressors within the environment that causes distress to the traumatized brain and can trigger the survivors disenfranchised memories, experiences and especially emotions. When this happens we lose a pivotal inner connection with ourselves and significant others. The loved one of a combat veteran can witness this disconnection in them by his or her facial expressions, body language and the absence of presence and intimacy.

Imagine the loss of this connection within yourself, the folding of the self inside out with this other self falling into an abyss. Continuously witnessing your central core falling and never losing site but knowing that, it, will fall forever. While doing this try and pay attention to someone in front of you when your perspective comes from a million miles away.

So, this what I am talking about. I started to write with the intention of explaining the process of opening up of the self to present during interviews and my work as a social work intern. I have trouble with the process of opening up concerning trauma, mine or others; its importance, where, how, when and the emotionality of the process, how to open up and close down. A disconcerted disconnection.


  1. imagine being the other person. After 28 years together,3 trips to Iraq,and being trated for PTSD for the last 5 years, I was told 2 weeks ago he has not loved me for 5 years. e wants out of the marriage, has made up his mind is not interesed in marraige counseling. I get no choice, no part of the decision process. I suffered childhood abuse, I know what PTSD feels like. I'm just angry and lost. The Army fucked him up I should be compensated for my ruined life.

  2. I am so sorry to hear that. That is terrible, but he needs to recognize he has a problem, if he can't, and is unwilling to get help for both of you, then moving on is the best choice.

    I just started dating a guy who came from Afghan. a year ago. We were crazy for eachother, until one day he stopped talking to me all at once, and I know why. I've seen patterns of him struggling to express emotion, he even hesitates right before we become intimate. Nonetheless he needs his space, and he knows I will always love him. <3

  3. So, am I understanding this correctly.....all military men and women are emotionally detached with their spouse, or with anyone they're in a relationship with? If this is so, is it temporary or permanent? I find it difficult to believe that everyone who's been in the military is emotionally detached and theres nothing they can do about it.

  4. Anony 1, I can only imagine what it feels like to love a Combat PTSD/TBI Vet. Sometimes we must let go of that which we love, we may need to lose everything to realize what is important.

    Anony 2, Good advice. We do need our space when our heads are in the Fog of War.

    Anony 3, honestly I do not see how you surmised your statement from this article. No, not all veterans or active duty personnel have these issues. A significant amount of Combat Veterans will develop these kinds of issues. This blog is mostly about me and my journey with Combat PTSD. The second line opens with, "I have been struggling with the opening up and closing down myself...." Yep, that's me talking about me.

    Recently Stanford University stated that 35% of servicemembers have or will develop PTSD, over 800,000 men and women with similar issues as above. You keeping up?

    Nothing they can do about it? I guess you ignored Anony 2's advice and failed to read any of my articles on what I did about emotional detachment or PTSD management.


Please share your comments, stories and information. Thank you. ~ Scott Lee