He's told me that he had to kill a few civilians, and it's really messed with his head. He stayed at my house a few nights ago, and I was awakened by him thrashing his arms in his sleep and screaming. I shook him awake and he said he was having a nightmare about Iraq.
I'd like to get more serious with this guy, but I'm a little worried that he might snap one day and kill me, thinking I'm an Iraqi soldier or something. Should I call it off now or take my chances?
-- Army Girlfriend
Dear Army Girlfriend,
If you're really serious about a relationship with Army Guy, you need to set him down and have a talk about your concerns. Find out if hes been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a psychological reaction to tragic events.
PTSD sufferers can have flashbacks and recurrent dreams about their trauma, and sometimes the condition manifests in agitation, substance abuse, memory loss, and problems managing anger.
An Army study found that one in eight returning soldiers who had fought in Iraq suffered from PTSD. Fortunately, it's treatable, and your man should be able to get help at a VA hospital.
Before you move forward with your relationship, make sure he's seeking help. If he tries to deny his condition or refuses to go in for a diagnosis, I'd suggest breaking it off before things move too far along.
In some extreme cases, PTSD sufferers lash out at their partners. But more commonly, those affected turn to drugs and alcohol, and dating an addict is no fun. They'll steal your stuff, embarrass you at parties, and you'll end up alone when they're shipped off to rehab.
Got a problem? Email Bianca at email@example.com.
Read the rest of Richard Cohen's Viewpoint.