Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that can have a significant impact not only on the individual but also on their family members. PTSD can develop after someone experiences or witnesses a traumatic event (American Psychiatric Association, 2013). It can lead to changes in communication and relationships, disrupt the family’s routine and lifestyle, and cause emotional stress. Fortunately, the Centre for Clinical Psychology can provide support and resources to help families manage the impact of PTSD on their lives.
Communication and relationship
One of the primary ways that PTSD can affect the family of sufferers is through changes in communication and relationships. Family members may struggle to understand the individual’s behaviour and reactions to certain situations, leading to misunderstandings and conflict. Researchers report that there are many combinations of symptoms of PTSD. Which can not only lead to misunderstandings, but also to family members feeling frustrated or helpless in trying to support their loved one, which can lead to feelings of resentment or guilt.
At the Centre for Clinical Psychology, we provide education and information about PTSD to help family members understand the condition and its impact. Understanding the symptoms of PTSD, the causes, and the treatment options available can help family members to better cope with the individual’s behaviour and reactions and to provide more effective support. For example a 2022 study showed a link between PTSD and avoidance of eye contact. Clearly a key factor in communication.
PTSD can also lead to changes in the family’s routine and lifestyle. For example, the individual with PTSD may struggle with daily activities and self-care, which can place a burden on family members who must take on additional responsibilities.
At The Centre for Clinical Psychology, we can provide therapy and counselling services to help family members manage the impact of PTSD on their lives. Therapy can help to improve communication and support within the family unit. The Centre for Clinical Psychology offers a range of evidence-based therapies that can be tailored to meet the needs of the family members, including cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) for family members and trauma-focused therapies such as Cognitive Processing Therapy and Prolonged Exposure for those suffering from PTSD.
CBT is a type of therapy that focuses on changing negative thought patterns and behaviours. It is often used to treat anxiety and depression, but it can also be effective in helping family members maintain a “clear head” about the challenges of living with someone suffering from PTSD. Trauma-focused therapy is a type of therapy that focuses specifically on the traumatic events that led to the individual’s PTSD symptoms. It is designed to help the individual process and make sense of the trauma, which can lead to a reduction in symptoms. It is also effective if someone has multiple traumas.
Family members may also experience emotional stress as a result of their loved one’s PTSD. They may feel worried or anxious about their safety and well-being or experience symptoms of depression and anxiety themselves. The constant stress and worry can take a toll on the family’s mental health and well-being, leading to burnout and exhaustion.
Stigma can be another area that may impact on families as well as individuals suffering from PTSD. When people have negative views about things they have little knowledge of, such as mental illness, like PTSD they may look down on families and individuals with the condition. People may believe things about PTSD that aren’t true. Like “it is all in the person’s head”. This can cause them to treat the PTSD sufferer and family differently.
This can lead individuals and families to feel shame or guilt about having PTSD in their lives. It may lead to attempts to hide the PTSD. It may lead to “self-stigma,” which can keep individuals from getting treatment, socialising or even going to work.
As mentioned above at The Centre for Clinical Psychology we offer a range of evidence-based therapies that can be tailored to meet the needs of the family members, including cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) for family members and trauma-focused therapies such as Cognitive Processing Therapy and Prolonged Exposure for those suffering from PTSD.
In conclusion, PTSD can have a significant impact on the family of sufferers. It can lead to changes in communication and relationships, disrupt the family’s routine and lifestyle, cause emotional stress, and affect the family’s social life and support network. The Centre for Clinical Psychology can provide invaluable support to the family of someone who suffers from PTSD by providing education, therapy and counselling services, emotional support, and practical assistance. If you or someone you know is struggling with PTSD, contact us at the Centre for Clinical Psychology (03 9077 0122) to learn more about how we can help.
American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). https://doi.org/10.1176/appi.books.9780890425596
Coll, S. Y., Eustache, F., Doidy, F., Fraisse, F., Peschanski, D., Dayan, J., Gagnepain, P., & Laisney, M. (2022). Avoidance behaviour generalizes to eye processing in posttraumatic stress disorder. European journal of psychotraumatology, 13(1), 2044661. https://doi.org/10.1080/20008198.2022.2044661
Galatzer-Levy, I. R., & Bryant, R. A. (2013). 636,120 Ways to Have Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. Perspectives on psychological science : a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, 8(6), 651–662. https://doi.org/10.1177/1745691613504115