Growing Up with a Parent with PTSD

Growing up with a parent with ptsd

Parenting is stressful under the best of circumstances. However, parenting with PTSD is even more so, especially if you haven’t received treatment to manage the symptoms of this mental health condition. Unfortunately, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is significantly more common than most people think.

In fact, a little over 1 in 16 people struggle with the symptoms of PTSD. Although the condition is often associated with active duty military personnel or veterans, this mental illness can affect anyone. Victims of domestic abuse, sexual assault and natural disasters all run a risk of developing PTSD. Fortunately, knowledge is power. Below, you’ll learn what it’s like growing up with PTSD or when your parent has PTSD, as well as the importance of getting help for this condition.

The Struggle of Managing Day-to-Day Life When You Have PTSD

PTSD is a mental health condition affecting people who have suffered severe trauma. Not every person who experiences trauma will develop PTSD and the severity of the effects of trauma can differ from one person to the next. Many things can be traumatic. A few examples of trauma include active combat, natural disasters, man-made disasters, domestic abuse, sexual assault and witnessing a crime or the death of another person.

Growing up with PTSD or having it as an adult causes many symptoms that can drastically affect a person’s quality of life. For example, nightmares and challenges in sleeping can cause you to have daytime sleepiness or struggle with your everyday responsibilities. In addition, ongoing anxiety, panic attacks, depression and flashbacks can cause mood changes that affect your relationships with others — including your children.

You may also have physical symptoms that make managing day-to-day life difficult. For example, some people with PTSD experience headaches, muscle pain or digestive issues. If you’re parenting a child with PTSD, they would display many of the same symptoms as adults.

The Effects of PTSD and How It Affects Parenting

The symptoms of PTSD make it hard to manage daily life, but some of them have a distinct effect on parenting. Examples include:

  • Paranoia: Caused by flashbacks, nightmares and heightened senses, paranoia is common in those with PTSD. This paranoia can rub off on your children, making them more prone to anxiety, depression and mistrust of the world around them.
  • Sleeping Challenges: When you can’t sleep because of nightmares or insomnia, you can’t function normally throughout the day. This can also make it difficult to care for your children and sometimes leads to neglect, even though you don’t mean to.
  • Mood Changes: Significant mood changes are sometimes seen in people with PTSD, and you may find it challenging to regulate your emotions around others, including your children. This can lead to your children feeling unsafe or walking on eggshells when you’re around because they aren’t sure what mood to expect from you.
  • Distant: Often, people with PTSD will seem distant because they’re still trapped in the moment of their trauma in many ways. It can be difficult to show children the physical or emotional love and attention they need when this happens. In turn, the children don’t feel as secure as they should because of damages to the parental bond — especially if the damaged bond is with their mother.

How Parenting With PTSD Can Affect the Child Short Term

In the short term, a child may feel like they’re to blame for any outbursts the parent has. This can cause anxiety and lowered self-esteem, along with feelings of sadness that can ultimately lead to acute or chronic depression. Often, children internalize their parents’ behaviors and will begin to live in a state of fear. This state of fear is because they don’t want to do anything that will trigger another outburst.

Children with a parent who has PTSD may take on a parental role and act “mature for their age” by finding ways to appease the emotionally distant or unstable parent. Additionally, children whose parents are made emotionally distant by their mental health problems can feel lonely, isolated and confused, which further negatively impacts their social and emotional well-being.

Long-Term Outcomes of Having a Parent With PTSD

The long-term outcomes are similar to the short-term ones in many ways. Feelings of sadness may lead to chronic depression, and taking on a parental role can make adult children feel like they missed out on their childhoods. Children may have difficulties making friends or maintaining healthy relationships as they age. These effects can increase the risk of suicide and tendencies toward self-harm. However, getting the help you or your children need can help negate these risks.

The Importance of Recognizing the Need for Treatment

Recognizing the need to treat PTSD and related symptoms is crucial because it can help minimize your condition’s effects on your children. PTSD treatment often involves a combination of cognitive behavioral therapy, talk therapy and medication. When followed through with, treatment plans can help significantly decrease the effects PTSD has on your daily life. This can improve your quality of life and that of your children.

The Importance of Recognizing Damage Done From Growing Up in This Situation and Seeking Help

If you grew up in a household where your parent battled with PTSD, you’ve likely battled the effects most of your life. But you don’t have to live with these effects forever. Various therapies can help you work through the trauma of living with a parent who has PTSD so you can heal and live your fullest life moving forward.

Get the Help You Need for PTSD Today

If you or a loved one struggles with the symptoms of PTSD, Restore Mental Health is here to help. Nobody should face the challenges of parenting with PTSD alone. You can fill out our online contact form to find out more about how we can help, and one of our compassionate customer service reps will be in touch as soon as possible.