General Why do veterans seem to stare



I don't know if this is PTSD related or not but whenever we're at a restaurant or anything, my vet has to scope everyone around us out, and if I'm honest, I hate it. It makes me feel like I'm not interesting enough to hold his attention or something. Someone help me understand?


Ever seen someone walk into a fountain/wall/off a curb/etc. because they’re so focused on their phone they’re paying zero attention to where they’re walking? Maybe snickered up your sleeve at what a complete moron they are, not paying attention to where they are and what’s going on around them? Or some idiot parent who is letting their kid run wild, bashing into other people, and screaming, and being an obnoxious brat whilst they are just obliviously chatting away to their girlfriend, or looking at shoes, or whatever? That’s civilians in a restaurant not paying any attention to anything but the phone person sitting across from them, for most vets/ cops/ anyone trained to be aware of their surroundings. At all times. But most especially when there are changing circumstances in play.

It’s not a PTSD thing, it’s a not-being-stupid thing. And you’ll get about as much traction with most vets in trying to get their full attention out in public, as you’d get with most parents, trying to get them to ignore their kids running into the street.

If you’re with a parent with their kids? You’re not going to have their full attention until the kids are either in bed asleep, or safe and sound elsewhere under someone else’s watchful eye. If you’re with a vet/cop/etc.? You’re not going to have their full attention, until you are 1:1. In private. And even then? Any time your privacy maaaay be interrupted (foot steps on the gravel drive, a creaking floorboard, etc.) their attention will split. It’s just the nature of the beast.

Personally speaking? I won’t date anyone who looks like a squirrel on crack when we’re out in public. Whilst asking someone to NOT scan is asking them to walk into a fountain whilst texting, or let their kid run out into the street... the WAY that they scan happens to be rather important to me. The exact same way I have zip zero nada issues with territorial/alpha type men in general; I DO take issue with their claim-staking gestures. Hand on the small of my back? Lovely. Punching out the maître de? Accusing me of “making” men stare at me? Grabbing my ass? f*ck that noise. (Not that I don’t like having my ass grabbed, I do. But NOT as a way to show other men they have the right to, whilst others don’t.) Shrug. It’s just personal preference. Some women would hate the hand on the small of their back, or be insulted at not having their ass grabbed.

I scan. I have zero problem with the men I’m with scanning (and big problems, if they don’t). But I also have strong preferences on HOW they scan.

You might not want to be with anyone who scans. That’s fair.
You might not want to be with someone who scans in the way your BF scans. Also fair.
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I scan and I'm certainly not a Vet or any other profession that calls for vigilance. I can listen to who I'm at dinner with, engage in conversation, but I AM keeping an eye on my surroundings and entrances and exits. It's how I feel safer in public. No disrespect to who I am with.


Yesterday, I asked J how his day was. He said it was crap. Why? Because he "couldn't relax until he got home". Hypervigilance is exhausting.

I scan myself now. He has walked me through his technique multiple times. I also help him by letting him know the waiter or anyone else is coming up behind him. I know what seat he will choose. I let him know when I am going to run the blender...

J scans non stop when we are in public. He's good because I never feel ignored. No wonder he likes the outdoors so much, no threats.

We went camping a couple of weeks ago. We had never been there before. New place. Strangers. Cars he doesn't know...He was on high alert the whole weekend. I knew this but the others we were with never had a clue.

We went tubing down a river one day. The water was freezing. It started to rain about half way through and then the temperature really dropped. It could have been bad. My guy springs into action, jumps in the water and propells us faster to the end of our trip. Gets the car and starts the heat immediately. We finally get back to camp to get dry and warm. J stops mid stride on the way to the tent and vomits. Between anxiety and hypervigilance he was a wreck. Again, I knew this but our party had no clue.

He has tried different things to stop it or curb it but nothing works. It is who he is. And it doesn't bother me in the least.


Thank you all for your input! It definitely helps to get other perspectives. Can anyone tell me what this type of hypervigilance feels like? Like what's running through your mind as you're looking around at everyone/everything?

**Actually, I just discovered this other thread on here--awesome!
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It takes J (combat veteran, childhood abuse, MST, TBI's) seconds to scan a room. Know how many people are in it. How many men. Women. Children. Exits. Weapons. Windows. Who's in the corners, where its dark. And on and on...

Non-stop. Every day.


My ptsd guru explained it this way...

When a normal person walks into a park they see trees and playgrounds and paths with flowers. They are there to relax and enjoy

When we walk into a park we see shadows, hiding places, sniper spots and dark areas with possible bad guys. We are there to be on guard to protect our loved ones.

It's just a totally different view of the world.


I do this and I'm not a vet. I did it a super ton more before my service dog including "exit plans" but I still must know my surroundings really well to feel safe whether I see it myself or whether my service dog alerts me to it.

It's my way of feeling safe and keeping those around me that I care about safe!

When we walk into a park we see shadows, hiding places, sniper spots and dark areas with possible bad guys. We are there to be on guard to protect our loved ones.

Yes! A great way to put it!

For me, its automatic and can't be stopped.


Thank you all for your opinions- it definitely helps to get the other side of things!

I used to play a similar game with my vet where he'd have a split second to glance at a person then would list off all their characteristics like height, weight, approx. age, any distinguishing tattoos, limp, etc. It was crazy how accurate he was!

I also notice that we'll just be walking along then he'll randomly look back behind him fairly often.

Just little 'ticks' like that!


Perimeter check has already been mentioned.

My vet has the habit of... well... not really staring... but looking at the horizon while talking when we are out in the countryside. I got pretty used to it.

What he hates us when another guy is staring at him/us... which makes him stare back... until the other guy looks away.