Sunday, May 20, 2012

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

More than 120,000 children die every year in the United States. One of the most important effects a parent can experience after a child’s death is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD. It is a cluster of symptoms that occurs when a very traumatic incident occurs in a person’s life. This trauma can leave a person feeling powerless, victimized and emotionally, physically and mentally paralyzed.

Symptoms can include: sadness and depression, denial, shock, confusion, anger, irritability, inability to sleep, nightmares, loss of appetite, guilt over the failure to prevent the loss, loss of interest in daily activities, forgetfulness or apathy.

If you or someone you know is suffering from any of these symptoms, it could be PTSD and seeking counseling or psychotherapy is advised. Another way to get help is by joining support groups… a safe place where parents, siblings and grandparents can go and express their feelings and listen to how others have coped. This can be locally or nationally such as Compassionate Friends or Bereaved Parents USA. There are many specific groups such as Parents of Murdered Children, SIDS Alliance or Alive Alone for parents who have lost their only child. Other helpful things to do include: eating well, daily exercise, daily journaling and establishing new routines or hobbies.

The effects of PTSD can be subtle, or they can be apparent. They can include extreme mood swings; uncontrollable outbursts; irrational long-term fears; or physiological symptoms such as headaches, lethargy, digestive troubles, repetitive disturbing nightmares and a change in appetite. Self destructive behaviors such as using drugs or alcohol can also appear.

According to the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Alliance, recognizing PTSD includes identifying clusters of symptoms that have been present for a month or longer which cause severe problems or distress. Some of the indicators include:

*Reliving the event through nightmares or other uncontrollable thoughts. One can get heart palpitations, headaches or sweating.

*Avoidance of reminders of the event or death such as not going to places, seeing people or doing activities associated with the trauma.

*Sensitivity at all times, making it difficult to concentrate, work, sleep and increasing irritability, aggression, withdrawal or isolation.

Editor’s note: portions of this information gathered from the MISS Foundation who helps families through a variety of resources..

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