Posttraumatic stress disorder refers to an extreme anxiety disorder, which erupts from exposure to an event that leads to psychological trauma (Kato et al, 2006, p.23). This event may include death threats, physical threats or threats towards one’s sexual, emotional or psychological integrity, which may affect an individual’s ability to sustain pressure.
Some of the key symptoms of PTSD include increased arousal that results in difficulties in getting sleep, flashbacks, nightmares, severe anxiety, uncontrollable thoughts on an occurrence and stimuli (Kato et al, 2006, p.28). Studies have revealed that symptoms of PTSD that are experienced by veterans may affect their families negatively.
They also show that relationships may serve to either improve or make worse the symptoms that PTSD victims experience (Kato et al, 2006, p.29). PTSD has severe effects on the family of veterans because of its consequences that include depression, avoidance, anger and guilt, sympathy and drug abuse.
PTSD related research has indicated that veterans experience marital problems, violence within the family set up, distressed partners and behavior problems among children (Little, 2011). This is because families will definitely respond to the reality of the person they love who has suffered a trauma.
Symptoms related to trauma make it difficult for someone to get along with people and may result in withdrawal from families or may turn to violence. Lack of emotional connection or lack of sexual interest with spouses may lead to difficulties in relationships (Little, 2011). Some of these individuals develop limited interest to family activities they took pleasure in before.
Families of veterans always sympathize with the suffering that that they undergo through because of PTSD. Family members sympathize with the loved one for what they are experiencing (Little, 2011). The loved one can be sure that there are people who will take care of him/her and feels sorry for what one has to go through.
To some extent though, this kind of sympathy can lead to lowered expectations, which may leave the traumatized loved one feeling as if the family assumes that they are not strong enough to pull through the ordeal by themselves. It is advisable not to treat them as if they are totally disabled as this may push them to seclude themselves. However, with the right kind of care and support, they can eventually feel better.
Depression is another problem that results from effects of PTSD. It mostly appears in family members if the person afflicted by PTSD elicits feelings of either loss or pain, or other emotions that hurt.
Depression in family members can be ascribed to the experience of a traumatic event. Knowledge of a loved one enduring such a difficult time, may lead to intense feelings of hopelessness, helplessness and impending doom (Little, 2011). Depression tends to vary from individual to individual, but there are common signs and symptoms, which could be part of the normal life lows.
Avoidance is a common effect of PTSD that involves evading situations that bring back memories of a traumatic event or occurrence. Family members of the traumatized individual are often fearful of examining and analyzing the traumatic event, just as trauma survivors fear to address whatever happened to them, that was the result of their current situation (Little, 2011).
Whatever the traumatized loved one may avoid, the family members may choose to avoid too, sparing the individual further pain or their reaction to the same. This kind of avoidance may lead to abandonment of regular family activities, thus leading to internal friction and frustrations.
A potential solution to the problem is to get them engage in social activities, unless they are not willing to (Little, 2011). At times, they may e afraid of the safety of other family members. During such instances, family members should not engage in social activities and at that level, it is good to seek professional help immediately.
Anger is an aftermath of PTSD because family members may feel guilty because of their inability to improve the situation of the suffering member by making them happy. The survivor’s family may harbor anger feelings towards the person or party they hold responsible for the experience of their loved one (Little, 2011).
In some cases where the traumatized individual does not stop to dwell on the traumatic event or exhibits funny behavior, the family may also feel anger towards the traumatized individual. In addition, anger may result from the inability of the suffering individual to keep a job or engagement in destructive behaviors such as alcoholism (Little, 2011).
The suffering member’s irritability may also result in anger and guilt in other family members. Family members should learn to overcome the guilt and anger because they are not the cause of the suffering and should focus on helping the suffering family member.
Drug abuse may result from the inadequacies in the coping abilities of family members as they try to come into terms with the suffering of their fellow family member. They result to drug abuse because the suffering of the family member is too much for them to handle. The whole family, especially the trauma survivor, may exhibit this response.
Drugs and substance abuse is common as a response to trauma related stress experienced by the family (National Center for PTSD, 2010). Amongst children, behavioral problems at school are a common thing. Post-traumatic stress disorder can strain mental and emotional wellbeing of the traumatized individual’s family, loved ones or care givers to significant levels (National Center for PTSD, 2010).
To a family, the trauma survivor may look a different person before the trauma due to changes such as increased irritability, depression and withdrawal. Most family members also develop certain behavioral problems such as excessive intake of alcohol, smoking and lack of exercise (National Center for PTSD, 2010). These habits get worse as they try to cope with the great suffering of their loved one
In a family, if a loved one has PTSD, members may feel guilty of their inability to fix the loved one or even speed up the individual’s recovery process. In order for the family to take care of themselves and the traumatized loved one, it is critical for the whole family to prioritize their mental health through exercise, rest and eating right (National Center for PTSD, 2010).Early treatment is better, for the symptoms can at times get worse as well as change family life.
PTSD symptoms often get in the path of family life in setups that have individuals experiencing trauma. The PTSD symptoms can worsen the physical health of a trauma survivor. Treatment administered to traumatized individuals, helps them in overcoming the ordeal. Treatment is also accredited with restitution of control senses and the memory holding power of the nightmare in the individual’s life.
An important aspect in prevention and handling of PTSD is social support. Every family member should be responsible for personal welfare as well as the well being of the member suffering from PTSD. Family members should avoid being too concerned with the suffering member because they may end up neglecting themselves (National Center for PTSD, 2010).
Kato, N., Kawata, M., and Pitman, R. (2006). PTSD: Brain Mechanisms and Clinical Complications. New York: Springer.
Little, S. (2011). How PTSD Affects Families of Veterans. Retrieved from
National Center for PTSD: Effects of PTSD on Family. (2010). Retrieved from