How does PTSD affect families and loved ones?

How Does PTSD Affect Families?

People who have suffered trauma oftentimes dull their emotions and feel detached from others. They sometimes distance themselves from others and their own thoughts of the traumatic event. They do not do this on purpose. When family members reach out to help, they are sometimes ignored or rejected. After which family members may become resentful or angry toward their loved one. This often triggers the person to become more withdrawn. Eventually this need to detach may lead to substance abuse, or loss of a job by their own actions. Some family members may feel guilty that they cannot help their loved one.
Other people with PTSD may act out in an angry aggressive manner. Their trauma may get trigged by seemingly nothing – when in reality it is an experience that causes the individual to recall the previous traumatic memory, (the trigger itself need not be frightening or traumatic), and it can cause the person to re-experience the original event. It can activate the original feelings and responses in the form of intrusive thoughts, negative emotions, negative self-referenced beliefs, and unpleasant body sensations. The family members may witness these events or be the target of them thus causing them trauma.

Impact of PTSD on Family Members

Family members of those with PTSD may experience a range of emotional, social, and financial impacts.

  • Emotional Impact

Family members of those with PTSD may experience a range of emotional impacts. They may feel overwhelmed, anxious, and stressed due to the unpredictable and often intense nature of their loved one's symptoms. They may also feel helpless or frustrated if they are unable to provide the support their loved one needs. In some cases, family members may develop their own mental health conditions, such as depression or anxiety, as a result of the stress of caring for their loved one with PTSD.

  • Social Impact

PTSD can also have a significant social impact on family members. They may feel isolated or disconnected from their loved one, particularly if their loved one is avoiding social situations or has difficulty communicating. Family members may also experience strained relationships with their loved one due to their loved one's symptoms, such as irritability, anger, or emotional numbness. In some cases, family members may need to adjust their own social lives to accommodate their loved one's needs, which can be challenging and isolating.

  • Financial Impact

PTSD can also have a financial impact on family members. They may need to take time off work to care for their loved one or attend appointments, which can result in lost income. They may also need to pay for their loved one's treatment or medications, which can be expensive. In some cases, family members may need to provide financial support to their loved one if their loved one is unable to work due to their symptoms.

Overall, PTSD can have a significant impact on family members. It is important for family members to seek support for themselves and their loved one to help manage the impacts of PTSD on their lives.

Research has shown that PTSD in one family member can affect the family dynamics and have a negative impact on other individual family members. People with PTSD have more marital problems than those without. Children of those with PTSD have more anxiety, depression, and behavioral problems than other children. Other problems experienced by individuals with PTSD, like substance abuse and neglecting healthy eating and exercise can have unintended harmful consequences on family members too.
Trauma and the Family

Treatment for First Responders

First responders are at a higher risk of developing PTSD due to their exposure to traumatic events. PTSD treatment for first responders is crucial for their recovery and well-being. There are specialized therapies and support systems available to help first responders manage their symptoms and improve their quality of life.

First responders may benefit from specialized therapies such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR). CBT is a talk therapy that helps individuals identify and change negative thought patterns and behaviors. EMDR is a therapy that uses eye movement to help individuals process traumatic memories.

Support systems for first responders include peer support groups, family therapy, and employee assistance programs. Peer support groups provide a safe space for first responders to share their experiences with others who have similar experiences. Family therapy helps first responders and their families communicate and cope with the effects of PTSD. Employee assistance programs provide resources and support for first responders to manage their symptoms and improve their mental health.

Recovery success rates for first responders with PTSD vary depending on the severity of symptoms and the type of treatment received. However, with proper treatment and support, many first responders are able to manage their symptoms and improve their quality of life.

Do you know a friend, family member or co-worker struggling with job-related trauma?

How does PTSD affect families and loved ones?
How do children cope with traumatic experiences?
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