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The Effects of PTSD on Families


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Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) symptoms may start within one month of a traumatic event, but sometimes symptoms may not appear until years after the event. These symptoms cause significant problems in social or work situations and relationships. They can also interfere with your ability to go about your everyday daily tasks.

What is PTSD?

PTSD symptoms can vary in intensity over time. You may have more PTSD symptoms when you're stressed in general or when you come across reminders of what you went through. For example, you may hear a car backfire and relive combat experiences. Or you may see a report on the news about a sexual assault and feel overcome by memories of your assault.

Military families often deal with unique cycles of stress associated with deployments and may struggle to know how to cope with changes in the family or their deployed loved one. 

Effects of PTSD on Families

PTSD can make somebody hard to live with. Living with someone who is easily startled, has nightmares, or avoids social situations can take a toll on the most caring family members. Research on PTSD has shown the harmful impact of PTSD on families. Read more here.

When a child's parent has PTSD

A parent's PTSD symptoms are directly linked to their child's responses. This section describes how caregivers' PTSD symptoms impact children and outlines some of the common problems experienced by children of Veterans or other adults with PTSD. This section also provides recommendations on how to cope with these difficulties. Learn more.

Partners of Veterans with PTSD

PTSD can affect how couples get along with each other. It can also directly affect the mental health of partners. This section describes common problems in relationships where one or both partners has PTSD and outlines essential information about helping couples face these problems. Learn how to get support.

How deployment stress affects families

Even when we are not at war, military families often deal with stresses such as frequent moves or parents' absence. Deployment to war creates additional issues for a family to handle. 

Families face several challenges before, during, and after deployment. This emotional cycle of deployment begins when news of deployment is released to the family. It starts with a short period of strong emotions, such as fear and anger. As departure grows closer, a period of detachment and withdrawal may occur. This can happen to prepare for the person being physically gone. Read more on the impact on families.

If you suspect that a loved one has PTSD, it's important to seek help right away. The sooner PTSD is treated, the easier it is to overcome. PTSD can interfere with your partner's entire life, health, relationships, and work. You can take a free anonymous screening on behalf of your partner online.

If your partner is reluctant to seek treatment, you can find support for yourself in how to help your partner too.

If you feel you or your partner are currently suffering from PTSD, contact a mental health professional or, if you need someone to talk to, call the Military Crisis Line at 800-273-8255, and press 1.

If you or someone you know has suicidal thoughts, get help right away through one or more of these resources:

Reach out to a close friend or loved one.

Contact a minister, a spiritual leader, or someone in your faith community.

Call a suicide hotline number — in the United States, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255) to reach a trained counselor. Use that same number and press 1 to reach the Veterans Crisis Line.

Make an appointment with your doctor or mental health professional.

If you know someone who's in danger of attempting suicide or has made a suicide attempt, make sure someone stays with that person to keep him or her safe. Call 911 or your local emergency number immediately. Or, if you can do so safely, take the person to the nearest hospital emergency room.

Everyone with PTSD—whether they are Veterans or civilians, survivors of sexual assault, serious accidents, natural disasters, or other traumatic events—needs to know that treatments do work and lead to a better quality of life.

The VA offers several PTSD treatment options, including medical, mental health, and family services. Check out the VA's PTSD website for details.

Family Brochure from the National Center for PTSD

Click Here for more information and addiction resources for Veterans. 

Related: Let's talk Military Family Resources!

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