Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, is a condition caused by some traumatic event. Although it’s typically associated with combat veterans, it’s actually far more common among civilians. Common causes of PTSD include accidents, assault, robbery, natural disasters, or the unexpected death of a loved one. While it’s normal to experience symptoms for a few weeks after a trauma, people with PTSD keep experiencing symptoms for months or years. These symptoms include avoiding anything related to the trauma, re-experiencing the trauma through flashbacks or nightmares, anxiety, inability to sleep, being easily startled, and being irritable or short-tempered. These symptoms are disruptive in themselves, but they can also affect your children in the following ways.
Kids feel unsafe.
The central feature of PTSD is that your fight-or-flight response is always on. Everything seems threatening. Your kids pick up on this belief, even if you don’t tell them explicitly. They see that you are afraid and they become afraid too. They learn, perhaps from a very young age, that the world is a dangerous place. They may feel like you can’t protect them. Feeling unsafe can have a long-term impact on a child’s life. Studies have found that children of parents with PTSD are more likely to experience anxiety and depression. They may be more neurotic, have trouble forming relationships, and behave disruptively. There may also be cognitive issues like attention deficit and problems thinking. What’s more, when children don’t feel safe, they are less likely to explore and try new things.
Kids think it’s their fault.
When kids see you reacting to a trigger or a flashback, they don’t know what’s going on. They don’t yet have a clear sense of reality and they often engage in magical thinking. Therefore, if you suddenly panic around them, they might think it’s their fault. Perhaps more importantly, PTSD can make you irritable and short-tempered. Kids can try your patience in a thousand ways and you are much more likely to get angry out of proportion to what they’ve actually done. Your kids may walk on eggshells, afraid to get in trouble for the slightest mistake. They don’t understand that the PTSD causes you to overreact.
Kids may become emotionally distant.
Clearly, being irritable and short-tempered with your kids will make them start avoiding you, but PTSD can have other effects on your relationship as well. If you are reluctant to do things with your kids because you fear being triggered, they might think you don’t care. Being preoccupied, defensive, or emotionally closed off can make them think you aren’t interested in what they have to say or what’s going on in their lives. This sense of disconnection can make kids emotionally uninvolved. They may isolate themselves or act out. They are less likely to seek help from adults. PTSD can be hard on families, but it does respond well to treatment. In addition to treating your own PTSD, it’s a good idea to have your kids talk to someone too, especially if they’ve been showing signs of anxiety or withdrawal. If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction or PTSD, we can help. Recovery Ways is a premier drug and alcohol addiction treatment facility located in Salt Lake City, Utah. We have the resources to effectively treat a dual diagnosis. Our mission is to provide the most cost-effective, accessible substance abuse treatment to as many people as possible. Request information online or call us today at 1-888-986-7848.