Caregivers & PTSD

This is a time of great change in your life and with the lack of structure and uncertainty inevitably comes heightened stress. While everyone can benefit from seeking additional help, there are times when it should be considered a necessity. It’s normal to have trouble sleeping or have negative feelings towards your experience, but this can quickly and quietly evolve into a much deeper issue.

What is PTSD?

In the wake of a life-altering event, people can develop Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), a psychiatric disorder in which intensely disturbing thoughts and feelings related to an incident inhibit one’s ability to live normally. PTSD is most closely associated with violent personal assault, but PTSD can affect any person of any age, ethnicity or culture with varying levels of trauma. Approximately 3.5% of U.S adults are diagnosed with PTSD. Unfortunately, after a traumatic medical event, about one in every six children experience persistent symptoms that are later diagnosed as PTSD. This remains true for a similar percentage of parents in this situation.

       Expected Stress Levels

It's completely normal to have unsettling memories, feel on edge or have trouble sleeping after a child's diagnosis or hospitalization. People may find it difficult to perform normal daily activities at first, such as attend school, work or even spend time with loved ones.  The chart outlines natural parental responses to a child's illness. While these feelings are normal and people typically start to feel better with the passage of time,  if  you are experiencing heightened stress for longer than three months and it’s significant enough to disrupt from your work or home life, you may be exhibiting symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). 

Negative Thoughts

  • About your child dying

  • Memories you can't stop or  control

  • Thinking you're a bad parent

Feelings

  • Worrying about your child's safety

  • Feeling jumpy or on edge

  • Feeling helpless or scared

Actions

  • Being more protective

  • Avoiding reminders of the event or hospital

  • Not eating, sleeping or taking care of yourself

Heightened Stress Levels: Ask for Support

While these are some of the most common symptoms of PTSD, this is in no way a complete list. If you relate to any  of these symptoms, or notice these behaviors in any loved ones,  it may be time to seek professional help. This is especially true if these symptoms have been going on for more than a few months, interfere with your work/home life or are causing you heightened levels of stress.  

Negative Feelings

  • Numbness

  • Guilt/ shame or lack of interest in activities once enjoyed 

  • Loss of trust in people and the world in general

  • Continued thoughts of death

Re-Living/ Avoidance

  • Experiencing bad memories, nightmares or flashbacks

  • The feeling that you're living the event again and again

  • Avoiding people or situations that trigger memories of the traumatic event

  • Avoiding talking or thinking about the event 

Hyper-Arousal

  • Feeling jittery/ startling easily or always alert

  • Trouble concentrating or sleeping

  • Sudden anger or irritability

  • Acting in unhealthy ways like smoking, drug or alcohol abuse, driving recklessly or binge eating

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