What PTSD Means for Adults

What PTSD Means for Adults

Currently there are about 8 million Americans who have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD. According to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, 10 % of women and 4 % of men in the U.S. will experience PTSD in their life times. This disorder can range in severity and duration. Treatment and recovery require specialized care from therapists, psychologists and doctors.

PTSD occurs after someone has experienced a traumatic and terrifying physical or emotional event. Anyone can experience PTSD for a variety of reasons. Women and men who have experienced rape, abuse, war, violent crime or severe accidents are more likely to develop PTSD than people who haven’t. However, not everyone who goes through trauma will develop PTSD.

Signs and symptoms:

People with PTSD have difficulty healing from a traumatic event. They tend to re-live the event and the emotions felt during it, sometimes unconsciously. This can involve:

  • Nightmares
  • Flashbacks
  • Sudden, strong or irrational fear
  • Avoiding places, people or things that are reminders of a traumatic event
  • Aversion of thoughts and feelings about a traumatic event
  • Diverse moods: anger, nervousness, depression, guilt
  • Difficulty feeling or dealing with emotions

After trauma, it is normal to experience some of these symptoms, but they should dissipate within a few weeks. If these symptoms persist for longer than four weeks, a doctor or therapist should be consulted to evaluate for PTSD. Some people attempt to self-medicate with drugs or alcohol, but this only increases the symptoms of PTSD.

Effects of PTSD on relationships:

PTSD is a doubled-edged sword; when someone has PTSD, their family members suffer along with them. Marriages are strained or broken, children develop behavior problems, and everyone is disconnected. Family members will often experience depression, fear, anger, guilt and despair.

It is possible for a family to heal and move forward if PTSD is properly treated. It’s important that all family members understand the healing process may be slow and will require effort from everyone. Some people with PTSD are talkers. They may want to discuss the traumatic events with their loved ones, while other people with PTSD may not want to mention a single detail. Both of these reactions are normal, and family members should not push for the opposite.

Support and advice is crucial to handling PTSD. In addition to a doctor and therapist, reach out to your family members, friends, church or support groups. Everyone needs extra support while coping with the effects of PTSD. Remember, PTSD affects millions of people; it is nothing to be ashamed of. Focus on healing and becoming stronger as a family.


Since everyone experiences PTSD differently, and treatments may vary. Some symptoms of PTSD can be alleviated by medications such as: anti-depressants, sleep medication or anti-anxiety medication. It is important that doctors are well informed about how their patients are reacting to medications.

Additionally, people with PTSD benefit from psychotherapy such as exposure therapy or cognitive restructuring. During exposure therapy, a therapist will expose someone with PTSD to their trauma in a controlled and safe way. This helps them to heal and move forward. During cognitive restructuring, a therapist will help someone with PTSD look at their situation rationally. If someone feels extreme guilt or shame, the traumatic events may have become skewed in their mind, which creates self-blame. A therapist will help a patient become aware that these feelings are misplaced, and work to resolve them.

Therapy can involve an individual or an entire family. Sometimes integrating back into family and social life is the most difficult part for people with PTSD, and therapy can aid in easing that transition. Whether individual or in a group, open communication with an experienced therapist will bring perspective, address issues, and create solutions.

PTSD is a serious disorder that has the potential to be debilitating. Reach out to a doctor or therapist if you or a loved one has PTSD. If you have any questions, reach out to us at Family & Child Development.