Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can develop in survivors of disturbing or dangerous events and causes chronic and debilitating anxiety. Moreover, the symptoms of PTSD often put considerable strains on a trauma victim’s family.
Traumatic stress can profoundly change a victim’s personality. The afflicted family member may become more withdrawn, cold and irritable. In severe cases, a person with PTSD may become violent. Make sure you have strategies to keep yourself safe and healthy even as you help your loved one heal.
Here are some troubling feelings that PTSD family members experience:
- Sympathy: When you see someone you love in pain, feeling deep sympathy is only natural. But too much sympathy can seem like pity to someone with PTSD. Try to empathize but also affirm your confidence in your loved one’s ability to recover.
- Depression and anxiety: Seeing a loved one go through a disturbing illness like PTSD can trigger feelings of depression and worry in family members. Children are particularly unprepared to deal with the effects of PTSD.
- Guilt and shame: Family members often feel guilty that they could not shield their loved ones from a traumatic event. They may also feel ashamed when they cannot make their loved one’s PTSD symptoms go away.
- Anger: A general feeling of anger can permeate families with PTSD victims. This anger may be directed at God, at the trauma victim, or at the people responsible for the event.
- Substance abuse: PTSD can make someone turn to drugs and alcohol to relieve their symptoms; the same can happen to family members.
Have you or your loved one been diagnosed with PTSD? See if you qualify for one of the Segal Institute’s clinical research studies on PTSD, enrolling now.