As the saying goes, “When the veteran suffers from PTSD, the whole family suffers from PTSD.” It’s true, you know. You can’t live in the same house and interact with the other people there without sensing the feelings and attitudes of everyone in the house, at least to some extent. When one of the individuals living there suffers from PTSD, every other person in that home is aware of it too.
Some of the symptoms of PTSD that have a strong impact on family members include:
• Avoidance of anything that reminds the veteran of the trauma
• Detachment from others
• Emotional numbing
• Reduced interest in activities the veteran used to enjoy
• Sleep difficulties
When the veteran exhibits any of these symptoms, the family may respond by adopting that “waiting for the other shoe to drop” attitude. Everyone tiptoes through the house trying not to upset the veteran. With PTSD in the house, no one feels safe.
Children are often the most profoundly affected family members when PTSD is in the home. They may respond with anxiety, feelings of worthlessness and being unlovable, grief at the loss of the original relationship or at the loss of a stable family, feeling responsible and guilty for the veteran’s distress, along with anger, confusion and depression.
Fortunately, children usually respond well to treatment. With help from a therapist, children can learn to hope again, to be reassured, and to understand that PTSD may be causing their loved one to act differently than he or she normally would.
PTSD…if you can’t ask for help for yourself, then, please, do it for your family